ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Query: Why Is a Unilateral Contract to Seriously Injure Someone Not a Crime?

PaytonSorry, this story is a bit stale, but we've been occupied with the semester.  Last month, the New York Times reported that the head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton (pictured) would be suspended without pay for one year "for his role in a bounty program that promised money to players if they injured opponents and knocked them out of games."

Upon learning this news, the Saints' quarterback, Drew Brees tweeted as follows:  “I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”

Well, we are not likely the source that Drew Brees looks to for explanations of such things, but is it not obvious that we are talking about serious crime here and is it not equally obvious that, if the bounty program is as described above, the appropriate penalty is not a one-year suspension for Coach Payton but a criminal investigation that could lead to significant jail time and a lifetime ban from the sport for Payton and all other members of the staff or the team who conspired to commit these crimes?  We are talking about offering players money for attempting to intentionally injure other players.  How is that not simply felonious conduct?  And it's not as if the perpetrators in this case can claim, as Michael Vick more plausibly could do, that their criminal conduct is the product of some sub-culture in which outrageous, inhumane behavior is considered normal.  Payton and his staff are NFL insiders who rub shoulders with the very people who are disciplining them for their conduct.  

If the suspension is upheld, Payton will be deprived of $7 million in salary.  Perhaps the Saints can contribute that money to a fund for NFL players and their families who are suffering from the long-term effects of the brain injuries they suffered while playing.


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