Integrity means following rules in NFL

Published 11:27 am Friday, March 9, 2012

Albert Lea Tribune editorial

There was one of those typical acrimonious-but-sort-of-staged-looking talks on ESPN Monday about the revelations that an NFL team had a bounty program so players had an incentive to injure opposing players and, thus, taking them out of a game.

(Later Monday, three more teams were found to have had bounty incentives.)

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On one hand, pundits on the show were stating the obvious, that the incentives put players in danger beyond the normal hazards of football.

On the other hand, pundits said big hits come anyway because they are paid to win games, which often comes as a result of hard hits.

The men on both sides of the talk spoke loudly to emphasize how right they were. They offered aghast-looking expressions at how foolish the other side was, of course, for the sake of the TV cameras.

What was lost in the phony-seeming discussion among grown men was any talk over integrity. Bounty programs are against the NFL rules. Grown men — men who are looked up to by children and other adults — should follow the rules because they have integrity.

After all, where else do rule-breakers break rules? Golf? Work? Taxes? Personal dealings? Playing a simple game of Monopoly with their kids?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to come down severely on the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans. There’s no doubt about that.

But when he issues his ruling, it will come with a cautionary statement for the entire league. In it, we hope he mentions the simple integrity of following the rules of a game. Sports ought not be: win at all costs. It should be: win within the rules, win as a good sport, win as a mature adult with integrity.