2012 Commentary: Goodell's Suspensions of Four NFL Players Hurts Several Teams

Abstract: Roger Goodell made the right decision when he decided to suspend four players for their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. However, he should also think about remunerating "innocent" teams who have been hurt by these penalties.

Earlier today, the NFL suspended four players for their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. The Los Angeles Times notes that Jonathan Vilma, a linebacker who still plays for New Orleans, was banned for the entire 2012 season. Vilma's teammate, defensive end Will Smith, will have to sit for four games. Two other ex-Saints players, Anthony Hargrove, a defensive lineman with the Green Bay Packers, and Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, will also have to serve lengthy suspensions. While the league made the right decision in punishing these players; its actions penalize teams (and their fans) who were not involved in the bounty scandal. Perhaps commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL owners should think about compensating these teams for their collateral losses.

Goodell was justified in suspending these four players. Per NBC Sports, Goodell only punished the athletes who were directly involved in helping foster the bounty program while they were in New Orleans. As a Bleacher Report article notes the NFL needed to punish the ringleaders involved in this scandal in order to demonstrate its commitment to player safety, as well as to protect its brand. The harsh sanctions will force coaches and players to think twice before they engage in unethical conduct which puts athletes in harm's way. As important, the commissioner's actions signal to fans that the league is committed not only to player safety but also to ensuring that the games are fair. Some experts might even criticize Goodell for being too lenient on the players involved in the bounty scandal.

While Goodell's actions may have been necessary, they will impact several "innocent" teams. The league's actions had already forced the St. Louis Rams find a way to overcome the loss of their newly hired defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, for at least one season. Now the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns will each have to take the field without a key defensive player. All three franchises, along with their respective fan bases, will be negatively impacted to some extent by Goodell's actions. The money these teams save in salaries will likely not be enough to compensate them for this damage.

Perhaps Goodell should have taken this fact into account when he announced the penalties. He could, for instance, have offered to remunerate the clubs (excepting New Orleans) who were impacted by his suspensions. The commissioner did not have to go out of his way to recompense these franchises. Even a token gesture by Goodell might have been enough for players and fans in St. Louis, Green Bay, and Cleveland.

-- Anthony Hopper

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