So the NFL says that the New Orleans Saints paid its players to inflict game-ending injuries on members of opposing teams. I can't help but think of that memorable scene from Casablanca when Louis enters Rick's Place and tells Humphrey Bogart's character, "I am shocked that gambling is going on here."
The outrage isn't that football players would have financial incentives to administer knockout hits, it's the fact that a coach created and ran the illegal cash for KO's program. Greg Williams, the Saints former defensive coordinator, acknowledged the bounty system he operated from 2009-2011 was a "terrible mistake and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it."
But the league will likely deliver it's own big blow in the form of a long suspension. Williams was scheduled to meet with NFL investigators Monday.
There is also concern that the bounty program may have been in place with other teams Williams coached: the Titans, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills. Former Stanford safety Coy Wire says there was an environment of "malicious intent' when he joined the Bills in 2002, where Williams was head coach. Williams is currently the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams.
A generation ago, the Raiders "Soul Patrol" defensive secondary of George "Hitman" Atkinson, Jack "The Assassin" Tatum and Skip "Dr. Death" Thomas relished in delivering dangerous hits to opposing receivers usually early in games to "set the tone," as Atkinsons once told me.
But even one of the game's most feared hitters Ronnie Lott, now a member of the NFL's safety committee said, "Everyone has to be accountable."
Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly says he is concerned about protecting player safety and the integrity of the game. Football may be an inherently violent game, however the NFL cannot condone activities that reward mayhem.