Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Problems

     Athletes are accused of crimes all of the time, whether it be for simple battery, tax evasion, or even drug dealing. These players are usually acting alone and their respective teams not liable However, the recent allegations of the New Orleans Saints having a bounty program, which pays defensive players for injuries they cause to offensive opponents, could have the whole organization in unparalleled legal trouble. Potential charges range from conspiracy to potential tax evasion. On  article from Sports Illustrated has stated that as many as 7 different types of crimes could be brought to court against the Saints.

      The most obvious is battery, which is the intentional and unlawful causing of physical harm to an individual. In Louisiana, it is simply the intentional causing of severe pain. One might argue that this charge is unreasonable, as players play football accepting that severe injury is a possibility, but players do not expect an injury, rather than the stopping of the ball, to be the main target of a tackle. There's a line between stopping the player, and slaughtering him, and payment for the injury of another definitely crosses that line, constituting the said charges. In the NFC Championship game a few years ago, Saints captain Johnathan Vilma supposedly offered $10,0000 to anyone whom knocked quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. He was hit late, bashed in the head, and crushed on running plays when he didn't even have the ball. Saints players as a whole were fined over $25,000 for plays made on that day. Lousiana state law states that causing intentional and severe harm to another person is classified as batter. A cart-off, where the player is so incapacitated he needs to be carted off the field, was awarded over $1,000, which, if the tackle was intended to injure, would raise the severity of the crime to second degree battery.
    Let's assume a player, John X. Doe, was found guilty of battery. The player who was battered, and his family, could press a personal injury claim against Mr. Doe, because the hit delivered was intended to be injurous, and no player expects to be the target of a hitman while on the field. It is very likely that the John Doe would have to pay for the battered player's medical bills, lost salary due to missed time, and other monetary retribution.

    If players were convicted of battery, then all the other players involved, along with then coordinator Gregg Williams, would be vunerable to a conspiracy charge. Conspiracy, by its legal definition, is the agreement between two or more separate parties to commit a crime. In this case, the crime would be battery, and it is a near guarentee that a conspiracy charge would be brought against the aforementioned parties if players were found guilty of battery.  Even if certain people, like head coach Sean Payton, did not participate in this system, they could be charged with negligence because they showed a disregard for the wellbeing and safety of others.

     Another, less obvious charge that could follow would be tax evasion. If the players accepted payments for injuries caused, they may have not paid taxes for them, even if they were "ill gotten." I wouldn't be surprised if the IRS is keeping its evil, all-seeing eye fixed right on the New Orleans Saints.

     These recent allegations have the New Orleans Saints and the other teams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has coached in hot water. It is likely that the Saints will be docked draft picks, have players involved be suspended, and monetary fines. Add in the legal ramifications and possible six month jail sentences for battery, this is truly an unprecedented case of what goes on behind the scenes in the NFL.

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