The Senate plans to hold hearings on whether to make bounties in the National Football League a crime, weeks after the New Orleans Saints were exposed by league officials for a program rewarding players for injuring their opponents.
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, announced that hearings will be held under the committee's Crime Subcommittee on whether federal sports bribery laws should be expanded to include sports.
No date has yet been announced for such a hearing, but Durbin said he wants to ensure that bounties are made illegal.
Representatives from the NFL, NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA will be asked to testify, Durbin said, raising the possibility that any laws that develop from the hearings would include all sports.
"Many sports involve human contact and the chance of serious injury. But when an injury is by design and is paid for, we've moved beyond any definition of sport," Durbin said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I'm happy that the NFL acted swiftly once a bounty program was discovered. But questions remain about what the NFL and other professional and collegiate sports organizations are doing to protect their players and the integrity of their sports."
The NFL this week suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, and indefinitely banned the team's former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was banned for half of the 2012 season, while assistant head coach Joe Vitt was banned for six games. The team was also fined $500,000 and saw two second-round draft picks, in 2012 and 2013, taken away.
The harsh penalties came after an NFL investigation found Saints players had engaged in a "bounty" program, in which players paid money into a pool, and received payouts if they injured opposing players. Star quarterbacks were singled out, such as Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner. The rewards varied with the injury - the more serious the injury, the higher the payout.
The allegations were so publicly damaging that Saints Quarterback Drew Brees posted a note on his website to apologize to fans for the bounty program and insist he had no knowledge of it.
by RTT Staff Writer
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