Bounties, Saints Marching in Shame & Forced Apologies

One can only imagine the bounty that would have been placed on Tim Tebow had the New Orleans Saints played the Denver Broncos during the 2011 NFL Season. With new details seemingly trickling out each day since last Friday’s “Bountygate” report was released by the National Football League, it would appear that coaches (former and current), players, and management of the Saints will receive stiff penalties from Commissioner Roger Goodell. From all the known facts — with more to come — the New Orleans Saints’ shameful behavior has tarnished reputations in a way that “Spygate” never could. And, belated and forced apologies will not prevent the well-deserved consequences that are sure to come.

For the record, I pulled for the Indianapolis Colts against the Saints in Super Bowl 44. I don’t know what it was then nor now, but I didn’t and still don’t care much for the Saints nor their head coach, Sean Payton. Let’s just say he never struck me as cut from the same clothe as Tony Dungy (his liking of Michael Vick notwithstanding). I couldn’t ever put my finger on it, but perhaps my dislike for the Saints was based on my perception — which may or may not have squared with reality — of a cockiness and an entitlement mentality that the Saints deserved to win the Super Bowl that year because of the hope that it would bring the city of New Orleans.

Now, please do not misunderstand. I fully appreciate the fact that the Saints were a beacon of hope for a city ravaged by the hurricane. But, throwing around the word “hope” does not necessarily result in good things happening. If you don’t believe that, look at what “hope and change” has gotten us over the last three years, but I digress.

Likewise, throwing around forced apologies will not result in “good” things happening, either. For former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton, and Saints’ GM Mickey Loomis, their sorries might need to be stuffed in a sack (maybe a sack from the days of the New Orleans “Ain’ts” will do). It’s one thing to be repentant; it’s another to just say “I’m sorry, it’ll never happen again.” The later is the SOP of politicians and pundits everywhere, from Bill Clinton to Rush Limbaugh.

Most Americans are willing to offer grace to those who are truly remorseful. However, when it appears that apologies are being forced — think Rush Limbaugh in the wake of his advertisers bailing out like rats off a sinking ship — the credibility of the one apologizing can’t help but be questioned. Particularly if the perpetrator was caught multiple times with his hand in the cookie jar, but refused to fess up until footage from the hidden bear cam was produced, offering incontrovertible evidence that the perp was guilty as charged.

Is there anyone who believes that the apologies of Gregg Williams, Sean Payton, or Mickey Loomis are anything other than forced? It was only after the NFL had the goods on all three men that any of them admitted culpability. Williams, in apologizing for his role, said:

“It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it.”

Well, that begs the question. If you knew what you were doing was wrong, but you kept on doing it, why did you suddenly decide to stop doing it? Was it your conscience finally getting the best of you? Did you have a moral and spiritual awakening which caused you to actually stop doing what you already knew in your mind was wrong? It seems to me that Mr. Williams would have kept doing what he was doing, even continuing the bounty program at St. Louis that was alleged to have started in Buffalo and which continued in Washington and New Orleans. Apparently the only thing that stopped Gregg Williams was the fact that the NFL was closing in and he had no other choice but to issue a confession and a forced apology.

But, even more distressing than Williams’ apology was the obviously forced apologies from Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis. With allegations that both Payton and Loomis were aware of the bounty program (although Payton denies knowledge of the details), it took three days for these gentlemen to “apologize” for their role in the scandal. Taking almost a week to go on the record concerning the Saints’ bounty program, Payton and Loomis finally brought themselves to issue a joint public mea culpa:

“These are serious violations and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game. Both of us have made it clear within our organization that this will never happen again, and make that same promise to the NFL and most importantly to all of our fans. . . . We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club happened under our watch. We take full responsibility.”

I wonder what brought Payton and Loomis to the stunning understanding that the bounty program involved “serious violations” which had a “negative impact” on professional football? Like Williams, I suppose that their consciences could have finally turned on. But, more than likely, the two leaders of the New Orleans Saints, when confronted with the damning evidence against them, realized that they had no other choice but to apologize and take full responsibility. Trying to show remorse — even if it’s insincere — is better than showing no remorse at all. Even criminal lawyers advise their clients to use this strategy. That’s because it works many times.

Will the feigned remorse and forced apologies work for those involved in the Saints’ bounty program? Probably not. If Commissioner Goodell’s handling other disciplinary matters is any indication, look for many Saints to be marching out of games next season (or the entire season), not with their heads held high, but in a walk of shame. Force apologies or no, that is truly a shame.



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