For fostering a system in which people were offered money to injure other people, could Gregg Williams end up in a place where people routinely injure other people for free?
That's the interesting question posed Monday by Gregg Doyel at CBSSports.com and Phil Mushnick of the New York Post. Is what Gregg Williams did actually illegal? And if so, should he end up in the pokey? Doyel asked his father, a retired judge and criminal defense attorney.
"There's no question, this was criminal. If a player was hurt, and he was hurt by players playing outside the rules -- with intent to injure, and 'intent' is the key word here -- that makes it a battery. No one in the NFL consents to being hit in such a way that is intended to injure them. This was criminal."
And here's what Mushnick argues:
For years, the NFL's version of "tackle football" had been headed for a rendezvous with criminality. In the Saints' case, pro football became less a sport than a purposefully coached under-business that rewarded excessive brutality and attempts to maim and disable opponents — opponents, known in the big business world, as competitors.
And that meets every standard of what the fronts of our newspapers, district attorneys and attorneys general classify as organized crime.
Putting right or wrong aside for a second, if you're going to put Williams in jail for this, then don't you also have to be prepared to put about half the NFL in jail, too? If I hire a dude named Lenny to kneecap someone, and we get caught, then I have to go to jail and Lenny has to go to jail, too. Are we going to lock up a bunch of Saints defensive linemen and linebackers for hitting Brett Favre really hard?
And if we go after Gregg Williams that hard, don't you think there are other defensive coordinators out there guilty of similar things? And if they have, and players tried to collect those bounties for them, don't those players end up in jail, too?
The slope is very slippery and very gray.
Which isn't to say that it's not a slope worth navigating. I love the NFL, and I'd hate for the league to be damaged in such a significant way, but it's also pretty easy to see this as criminal activity. As a citizen of the United States, are you not entitled to the reasonable expectation that you can go to work every day without someone trying to injure you to the point where you can't work anymore?
If you sign up to play in the NFL, you consent to being hit and being tackled. But you don't consent to being the target of bounties.
There are no quick and simple answers, and there's a long, long list of difficult questions. None of them are good for the NFL.
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