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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 03/23/2012

NFL bounties earn Senate scrutiny


New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will sit out the 2012 season on a year-long suspension. (Hannah Foslien - Getty Images)
The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat is calling pro sports officials to Washington to explain how some players earned cash for hits that hurt opponents.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he plans to hold a Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks with officials from the NFL the NFL Players Association and hopefully representatives of the NBA, NHL, NCAA and Major League Baseball.

Durbin said Thursday he’s encouraged by the steps taken this week by the NFL, including a year-long suspension for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and an indefinite ban on Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

But “It goes way beyond the rules of any sporting contest, at least team contest, to intentionally inflict harm on another person for a financial reward,” the senator told ESPN.


Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
Moving forward, the NFL and other leagues must “come up with standards to make sure this isn’t going to happen again,” Durbin added, otherwise lawmakers will need to “at least explore whether it is necessary to have federal legislation in this area.”

Durbin suggested Congress could extend federal sports bribery laws to cover bounties. That way, “if someone offers in a team sports situation some sort of value, money or otherwise, to intentionally hurt another player, that, in fact, would be a crime.”

Here’s a deeper look at what else I’m reading today:

Democrats’ battle to win back House ramps up in Illinois (by Paul Kane in The Washington Post): The uphill effort to reclaim the House majority began Thursday, “led by a legless Iraq war veteran who barrels around Chicago’s western suburbs in her Ford F-150 truck trumpeting an economic-fairness agenda.”

Mitt Romney lands prize on Hill visit (by Jonathan Martin from Politico): Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who backed Romney in 2008 but has remained neutral, said Thursday that “we all need to look at this presidential primary and encourage the candidates to do a little self-reflection here on what’s good for our country.”

Arlen Specter says he may vote for Romney (by Alexander Bolton in The Hill): The former Pennsylvania senator said he’ll make up his mind “depending on which version of Romney shows up for the general election.”

Dick Lugar under pressure to release hotel expense audit (by Manu Raju in Politico): The Indiana Republican said Thursday he’ll “consider it,” but added: “I have no idea what they want.”

Dennis Kucinich to visit Washington state … again (by Shira Toeplitz at Roll Call): The defeated Ohio Democrat will address a forum on protecting Social Security at Highline Community College on April 12.

Upgraded radios for Capitol Police ready next year, chief says (by Emma Dumain in Roll Call): The force has been lobbying for years for money to replace their decades-old radio system, “an analog system that they say is plagued with age-related bugs such as insecure connections and dead spots.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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