The U.S. Senate wants to grill the NFL about bounties. And the NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball are invited, too.
Sen. Dick Durbin is setting up a Judiciary Committee hearing about bounties in professional football and other major sports in the wake of news that New Orleans Saints players received extra cash for hits that hurt particular opponents.
The assistant Senate majority leader, an Illinois Democrat, said Thursday he wants to examine whether federal law should make such bounty systems a crime.
“Let’s be real basic about it here. If this activity were taking place off of a sporting field, away from a court, nobody would have a second thought (about whether it’s wrong). ‘You mean, someone paid you to go out and hurt someone?’ ” Durbin said in a telephone interview before raising the issue on the floor of the Senate.
“It goes way beyond the rules of any sporting contest, at least team contest, to intentionally inflict harm on another person for a financial reward,” he said.
His announcement came a day after the NFL took a harsh stand on bounties, suspending Saints head coach Sean Payton for all of the 2012 season, and indefinitely banning their former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was barred for half of 2012, an assistant coach got a six-game ban, and the team was docked two second-round draft picks and $500,000.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still needs to decide what penalties to give players who were involved in the Saints’ scheme from 2009-11.
“I am encouraged by what the National Football League did. What they came down with as a penalty on the New Orleans Saints was decisive and historic,” Durbin said, adding that he thought the league was “taking this very seriously.”
But moving forward, the NFL and other leagues must “come up with standards to make sure this isn’t going to happen again,” he said. Otherwise, lawmakers will need to “at least explore whether it is necessary to have federal legislation in this area.”
One possibility, Durbin explained, would be to extend federal sports bribery laws to cover bounties, so that “if someone offers in a team sports situation some sort of value, money or otherwise, to intentionally hurt another player, that, in fact, would be a crime.”
Durbin wasn’t sure when the hearing will happen, but he said it could be two to three weeks from now.
A person familiar with the situation said three current Saints assistants are strong candidates to take over as head coach in Payton’s absence: offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. … Quarterback Andrew Luck completed 46 of 50 passes – and three of those incompletions were drops by his receivers – in front of more than 125 NFL scouts and executives at Stanford’s pro day. … The 49ers re-signed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. to a one-year contract and finalized a two-year deal with former Giants receiver Mario Manningham. … Running back Michael Bush signed a four-year contract with the Bears to back up Matt Forte. … Quarterback David Carr, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft, re-signed with the Giants and will back up 2004 top pick Eli Manning. … Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch signed a five-year contract to remain with the team. … DeMaurice Smith was re-elected NFL Players Association chief executive. He ran unopposed. … The Broncos signed cornerback Tracy Porter and wide receiver Andre Caldwell.