Metaphor vs. Malice on NFL Sidelines

Uploaded by PBSNewsHour on 06.04.2012

bjbjLULU JEFFREY BROWN: Next, violent talk and a violent, but hugely popular sport. GREGG
WILLIAMS, National Football League Coach: There may be better athletes, but not defensive
football players that have to go into war tomorrow. JEFFREY BROWN: That's New Orleans
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams last January firing up players to face the
San Francisco 49ers in a playoff game the next day. Documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon
recorded Williams demanding the get-tough approach that might be heard in many locker
rooms. But Williams has now admitted he oversaw cash bounties for players who knocked opponents
out of games. And in parts of the tape, he clearly targets key San Francisco players,
including number 10, Kyle Williams, who'd already had four concussions. GREGG WILLIAMS:
We need to find out in the first two series of the game the little wide receiver number
10 about his concussion. We need to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) put a lick on him right now. JEFFREY
BROWN: San Francisco's wide receiver Michael Crabtree was a target as well. He'd been nursing
a damaged ligament, an ACL, in his knee. GREGG WILLIAMS: We need to decide whether Crabtree
wants to be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) prima donna or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to
find that out, and he becomes human when you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) take out that outside
ACL. JEFFREY BROWN: Williams also zeroed in on 49er tailback Frank Gore. GREGG WILLIAMS:
We have got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore's head. We
want him running sideways. We want his head sideways. JEFFREY BROWN: The Saints ultimately
lost the game, and Williams himself left New Orleans. Then, the bounty scandal erupted
into full view, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him from the league indefinitely.
Saints head coach Sean Payton was banned for the coming season. The Williams audio appeared
online, hours before Payton's appeal hearing yesterday. Filmmaker Pamphilon says he released
it as a warning amid growing concern about head injuries in football at all levels. More
now on the tape and larger questions it raises from Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the
Center on Sports in Society at Northeastern University, and Mike Wise, sports columnist
for The Washington Post. He also hosts a sports radio talk show. Dan Lebowitz, I will start
with you. What strikes you most about that tape? DAN LEBOWITZ, executive director, Center
on Sports in Society, Northeastern University: What strikes me most about it is that it goes
against everything the Roger Goodell sort of tenure at the NFL. Goodell has come in,
looked at concussion issues, been responsive to the concussion issues, has tried to establish
a code of conduct for that league as if they were in many respects what they are, a major
brand like IBM. He's leveled fines for excessive hits. He's told people that he was going to
establish this code of conduct. And he's held strong to it. So I think, in many respects,
it's a rogue and reprehensible act by certain people, in contrast to what the overall leadership
of the league, whether it's from Goodell or owners like Kraft and the Rooneys -- there
is a strong leadership in the NFL, and it's a great brand. And I think that that brand
has worked hard to make sure that people respect it and see that that brand is carrying a role
of responsibility. JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, Mike Wise, you have been in a lot of
locker rooms at the same time. . . MIKE WISE, The Washington Post: Yes. JEFFREY BROWN: ... and
must have heard these kinds of -- pumping up is what coaches do, especially in a violent
sport like football. MIKE WISE: Yes, I think there's a segment of society today saying,
Jeff, this is how the sausage is made, and why should we be surprised? But I think it's
-- I think it's important to make a clear distinction between, metaphorically speaking,
I'm -- you need to go knock that guy's head off, which we have all heard in locker rooms,
and you ve got to go test somebody's ACL. You have to hit him in the head. Apparently,
from the audio, the visual involved pointing at a chin, saying, you need to get Alex Smith
under the chin. These are -- these are clear malicious intent to injure -- to -- injures.
And if you get to that point, I think you step over some lines, some boundaries that
all of a sudden are crossed. JEFFREY BROWN: But is the line -- I will stay with you, Mike.
Is the line clear? I mean, that's the question, right? MIKE WISE: Well, and that's a good
question, because having talked to Richard -- Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, one the top neurologists
in the country who s on the NFL's concussion committee, he says that there is a culture
change going on. The problem is, it's not going on, on the sideline yet. It's in the
owners' offices. It's in Roger Goodell's office. He can't have his offensive stars being hurt
because it hurts his bottom line. But if it's not happening on the sidelines, it doesn't
matter. And it has to happen on the sidelines. JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Dan Lebowitz, you were
talking about seeing it in the commissioner's office. What about the sideline? What about
criticism even of the commissioner's office that they -- yes, they understand it now,
but they came late to this concussion problem, and, you know, are responding more out of
fear at this point than out of real health concern? DAN LEBOWITZ: Well, I think that,
you know, people generally sometimes have to respond in a reactive fashion, given sort
of the way society moves and issues that are raised as society moves. I think, to Goodell's
credit, you can look at it as reactive. But I think that his policies in that reaction
have been very proactive. And I think that he has set a clear tenor for the league during
his tenure. And I think that it's going to filter down either through fine or through
suspensions, as he's been levying. JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Wise, a lot of money is on the
line either way, right? I mean, this is an incredibly profitable sport. MIKE WISE: Yeah.
And I don't want to demean Roger Goodell and say he doesn't care about the safety of players.
I do think he does. I also think this also happens to be at a time when there are 55
concussion-related lawsuits now filed against the NFL, class-action suits that represent
over 1,000 players, Jeff. That's millions and millions of dollars. He cannot have his
defensive coordinators asking his players to take out other players in the game. It's
not healthy for his game's future economically or morally. The fans will tune off if this
keeps happening. JEFFREY BROWN: What are you hearing from other players, first, you know,
from a week ago and now after this tape? MIKE WISE: It's really shocking. There's such a
wide variance. Some -- like there's -- Chris Kluwe, the punter from Minnesota, is so bothered
by this idea that people are outing snitches and the idea that somehow the people who told
on them are not looked at as good samaritans, but people who broke football's code. He's
angry about those people. There are other people saying. . . JEFFREY BROWN: Not about
-- not about what happened, but about the way it got out. MIKE WISE: Yeah, the way it
got out. That's the sad part. There are people more concerned in the NFL, players, that are
more concerned with the fact who told than who actually is trying to maliciously injure
me. That, to me, is a warped culture. JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Dan Lebowitz, speaking of larger
culture here, what of fans? How do fans respond to this? Do you see it having any repercussions?
DAN LEBOWITZ: Well, I think that the spotlight of sport creates such a great platform for
discussion about right and wrong, about ethics and a number of other things. So, in many
respects, the concussion issue, the league's response in terms of leveling fines for hits
hopefully will engage in larger national discussion where people will start thinking about ethics
in general. Like, what is ethical and why aren't we more ethical? And, so, you know,
I mean, these questions could be asked in the political realm. It could be asked in
the financial realm. It could be asked elsewhere. But I think it's that great spotlight of sport
that allows for a discussion along a much wider audience. JEFFREY BROWN: You were nodding
your head. MIKE WISE: Yeah. JEFFREY BROWN: You think there is some hope there? MIKE WISE:
Yes, I think there is -- and not to be utopian about it, but I think at some point, if people
do want their children to play football, they allow them to play football, you want to know
that it's not about hurting the other guy, that it s about something other than that,
and that there is values maintained and that there are things that happen that go -- that
transcend just knocking another guy out. And if it's -- we understand that the violence
is oxygen to football in some ways that we will never get away from. JEFFREY BROWN: And
to the fans. MIKE WISE: And to the fans. You're not going to have a league without big hits.
But I think we need to get to a point -- and I don't know if Dan agrees with this -- that
-- where we celebrate the hard hitters, but we condemn the headhunters. And I know that
those lines are very iffy, and it's not clear when you obliterate them. But Gregg Williams
did. And I think he should be condemned. JEFFREY BROWN: All right, brief last word, Dan Lebowitz?
DAN LEBOWITZ: I just think that, you know, in general, Mike's right on point there. A
line was crossed, and I think that Gregg Williams should be condemned. And I think that that
condemnation will reverberate throughout society in ways that will be positive. JEFFREY BROWN:
Dan Lebowitz, Mike Wise, thank you both very much. MIKE WISE: Thanks, Jeff. DAN LEBOWITZ:
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