When the Saints Go Smashing Heads, Coaches Get Suspended

In sports law news, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended by the National Football League for the entire 2012 football season. The punishment was meted out by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on March 21 due to a controversial practice called a “bounty program” in which Payton would pay Saints players for aggressive hits that would take opposing players out of a game. Not only is this practice extremely unethical and unsportman-like, it could be unlawful.

The NFL has recently seen a wave of lawsuits from former players claiming that they were not informed about the danger of brain injuries before signing team contracts. The NFL and Riddell, Inc., a sports equipment producer, have been sued most recently by former players alleging similar claims.

Since this is the first time in League history that a head coach has been suspended, it remains unclear whether Payton will take legal action to fight the suspension. Since head coaches operate on a contract that is given by the individual teams, the terms of that contract is ultimately dictated by agreements between the coach and the team owner. However, all NFL teams are regulated by the League itself. So, it seems as though the Commissioner can suspend a coach’s employment even without precedent.

It remains unclear whether Payton will be allowed to stay with the Saints after the 2012 season.