“What’s the first thing coaches say to kids in Pop Warner [youth football]? They say, ‘Go in there and hit somebody.’ They say, ‘You gotta knock his head off.’ And you know how many coaches and dads go out there and yell, ‘You gotta get him.’ So that’s instilled in you at an early age.”
Fans enjoy the NFL’s violence. If they didn’t, the league wouldn’t generate billions of dollars each year. There’s something alarming, however, about a coach administering a program targeting players to be injured.
That doesn’t fit with the notion of fair play, or simple human decency, most fans would expect from their favorite teams and players. And if fans lose belief in products, profits suffer.
Williams isn’t the only coach to have run a bounty system, NFL people say. The practice has been around for a long, long time.
It’s time for that to change. With what’s known about the long-term effects of concussions and other injuries common in the NFL, any type of under-the-table bonuses for inflicting injury must end.
The other troubling aspect of this mess is the notion, which several players expressed to me, that players should not have “ratted out” Williams.
As their thinking goes, what’s said in the locker room should stay in the locker room, which was one of Williams’s favorite sayings when he discussed bonuses with Washington’s players. That’s just another wrongheaded view.
When trying to change a bad practice that has been ingrained over years, honesty is what’s needed most.
Goodell faces a tall order, trying to change a culture that has been shaped and reinforced over many years. Making an example of Williams seems like a good place to start.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.