Well maybe I am going all Conspiracy Theory Guy with this one. But maybe someone needs to for a little while.
Regardless of my skepticism, plenty of questions still remain unanswered. But just one predominates.
Solely, what direct evidence does the NFL actually have as to the existence of a multi-year bounty program in New Orleans?
Should we implicitly believe there was a three-year, institutionalized bounty program in place simply because Roger Goodell said so? Remember that the NFL Players' Assocation in preparing to defend Saints' players from pending sanctions has repeatedly asserted, again as recently as Monday, that "to date, the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of such a program." Read that one more time and let it sink in.
Furthermore on Monday, after NFLPA leaders met with league officials to discuss player sanctions, Drew Brees said “We didn’t get any meaningful evidence, or any meaningful truth or facts.”
Isn't that mildly alarming? That after 6 weeks of public crucifixion, the players intent on defending themselves have not seen any evidence as to what they've been pilloried for?
Who do you think is twisting the facts here? The NFLPA and Drew Brees? Or Goodell and the NFL? If there are 50,000 pages of information and documentation revealing a 3-year bounty program, then why not show the public--or at least the NFL Players' Association--definitive, hard proof of its existence? What is there to hide? Is the NFL fearful that disclosing evidence to the NFLPA makes the league even more vulnerable to legal action? Or is there anything of substance at all?
If there was indeed evidence of Saints' players engaging in repeated, malicious, intent-to-injure activity on the field, those plays would be plastered all over every TV station and website in order to provide conclusive proof of the Saints' guilt. Right?
But guess what? We haven't seen anything except for ONE PLAY: the hit on Favre in the '09 NFCCG. In a game of extreme violence, in a game where any given defense is on the field for ~1000 plays per season, we've seen exactly one play to back up the claims that the Saints ran a pay-to-injure scheme for three years.
Sorry, but that doesn't smell quite right.
The fact that the public has not been provided on-field confirmations of the Saints' bounty program is tacit admission from the league that their evidence is either flimsy, exaggerated, manufactured, or virtually nonexistent. This isn't to say a bounty program did not exist. Rather, it's to say that it didn't exist in the manner publicly portrayed and, moreover, that the league doesn't appear capable of proving it did. Unfortunately the league doesn't have to prove it because they essentially answer to no one, with one man responsible for dispensing punishments and hearing appeals. Sure, that seems like a reasonable system immune from the perils of abuse.
What we have gotten in doses is an allegation of Jonathan Vilma offering $10k to knock out Brett Favre in the '09 NFCCG. Who witnessed and made this allegation? Did that person have any reason to fabricate this statement? Who, if anyone, corroborated this witness' account? Should we blindly believe what Goodell says that some mystery person said? Apparently it's fair game for the NFL to just say "he said this" and expect everyone to take it as gospel which, not so coincidentally, the feeble mass football media certainly did.
Don't forget that for decades, the NFL also told us that head injuries, concusssions, and CTE did not result from playing football.
Do you still believe that today?
Because the league has a history of misrepresenting the truth and a clear motive to continue doing so now, why should they not be held accountable by the press and the public into sharing the evidence behind their damning claims and draconian punishments? Not a summary or press release or memo of findings, but the actual evidence.
While the overwhelming majority of these thin-skinned media puppets have attacked and disparaged the Saints from every conceivable angle for the past month--exacting personal retribution on a coach (Payton) they despised along the way--not one of these prostrate sycophants has taken up the task of investigating the simple claim as to why the NFL has repeatedly refused to share evidence with its own players' union. Doesn't that seem pretty fucking relevant to this case? Why has nobody in the media even sought an answer? It's mind-boggling to the core, but probably illustrative of a deeper reality: the railroading of the Saints by the league and its media arm as a brand protection strategy.
The other evidence we have thus far is a three-minute audio snippet from a 2012 playoff game in which the Saints, mind you, were penalized NOT ONCE. Moreover, this evidence was captured and released by an independent filmmaker and not the league itself. Accordingly, the NFL has repeatedly sought access to all of Pamphilon's footage and audio. And why would they do that? Perhaps because the evidence used in dispensing team sanctions (free from third party arbitration, by the way) is so flimsy that it won't hold up against the players' union, their army of lawyers, and potential third-party arbitration. Wouldn't this be a logical reason the league refuses to share its "evidence" with the NFLPA? Because it'll get shot to all hell?
And maybe this is why the league has stated that this is an "ongoing investigation"--because their evidence is for shit and so they can, furthermore, retroactively mold "new findings" to fit their long-term strategies and justify their sanctions.
Seriously, why is the collective groupthink that Goodell and the NFL are beyond reproach here? Because they're so fucking swell and benevolent? Because Gregg Williams is a reckless, loudmouthed psychopath? Because Sean Payton didn't deign to kiss the commissioner's ring?
The simple fact is that rhetoric in theory does not equal malice in practice, and those divergent concepts should not be punished as equals. And if there is concrete evidence that supports the claims and existence of the program, then why hasn't anyone seen it all? Why isn't anyone besides the players' union even asking to verify it?
After all, Goodell has a documented history of manipulating critical evidence in the past. Did we ever find out why he destroyed all of the SpyGate evidence immediately after handing out punishment? In that case, Senator Arlen Specter, investigating Goodell in response to the destruction of evidence, asked why punishments were handed down before the full extent of the misdeed was known (sound familiar?) and concluded that during the investigation "there was an enormous amount of haste" (sound familiar?). Finally, Specter questioned the quality of the league's investigation at the time (sound familiar?). But hell, no way that could happen AGAIN, right?
Instead all we've gotten are strategically-deployed "pieces of info" released to select media that the NFL owns in one form or another. Yes, the same suckling media that spinelessly refuses to request the totality of evidence in order to ascertain its veracity. Fucking cowards.
We've heard about big, scary numbers (50,000 pages of documents OOOH!); a fruitless, bounty-specific email sent from prison by a felon to Saints' coaches in 2011 (Ornstein, evil, GASP!); an allegation of Vilma spewing hyperbolic, pre-game bombast one time; an admission from Williams--a confessed liar and spurned former coach--who may well be falling in line with the league in order to save his career; and an audio clip from a 2012 game that once again proved no action executed from the vile rhetoric espoused.
How is that evidence of a systemic, three-year, pay-to-injure program?
Guess what, it's not. It's a bunch of separate incidents woven together to form a convenient, seemingly cohesive narrative for the NFL to manipulate to its own ends. In the meantime, Sean Payton and the Saints' fans bear the brunt of what looks increasingly more like a McCarthyesque witchhunt in its absurd demagoguery and pervasive unsubstantiations.
If the NFL, or anyone else, concretely displays the evidence that proves their claims, then I'll happily shut the fuck up and say I'm wrong. But for now I stand behind my previous assertion that the Saints' cardinal sin in this whole thing was defying Roger Goodell when questioned over the prevalence of bounties. God forbid you deceive the king at his own game of mendacious deceit.
The league has an obvious, vested interest in developing a perception of concern for player safety. Combined with the actuality of mounting lawsuits from former players, that alone is enough to invite skepticism here. Without knowing the facts behind the claims, though, how can the public know if the punishments fit the crime? Or if the crime even existed as presented? How can other teams take comfort in Goodell's retributive, capricious approach to punishing a franchise and its fan base?
|Florio and PFT: the one legit media outlet seeking real answers|
Instead, they mindlessly and sanctimoniously drone on about arrogance, asterisks, deception, integrity of the game, and every other pithy fucking soundbite they've been indoctrinated with from their corporate masters.
Errand boys, the lot of 'em.
I guess that's the way the NFL and its supine media executes things: "we decree, you reiterate, they thoughtlessly accept as dogma, while we perpetuate the stuffing of our fat, slimy coffers with those suckers' hard-earned dollars." And for those of us who don't accept it? I guess it's relegation to the fringes, paranoia and all.
But at some point when we stop blindly trusting this corporate behemoth, this increasingly-fabricated, dog-and-pony show that is the NFL, we just might all see the light. Or the darkness.