The NFL hammer came down hard on "Bountygate" and the Twitter reaction came just as forcefully.Commissioner Roger Goodell doled out unprecedented punishment Wednesday for bounties paid out on big hits, without pay for the 2012 season and indefinitely banning the team's former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, who now works for the St. Louis Rams. Payton, who led the Saints to the Super Bowl title in 2009, becomes the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason.
Minutes after the NFL announced the punishment, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees reacted on Twitter:
Last week, Brees said what bothered him most about the bounty probe is that the Saints are being portrayed as a bunch of "hit men."
I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) March 21, 2012
OMG!!!!!! That's unreal!— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) March 21, 2012
Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry called the suspension "harsh" before suggesting the hypocrisy behind the punishment:
Get paid to do it and it's frowned upon! Do it on your own will cuz of your mindset and get fined! Yet they'll glorify it on tv! #confused— Aaron Curry (@AaronCurry51) March 21, 2012
But not everyone on Twitter was surprised. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy agreed with the punishment:
I commend Commissioner Goodell on his discipline of the NO Saints. Coaches and front office should be held to a higher standard than players— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) March 21, 2012
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe also supported Goodell's punishment:
Commish sent the right message. It's one thing to break the rules. It's a completely different one to consistently lie about it for 3 years.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) March 21, 2012
But in the end, the only opinion that matters belongs to Goodell, who called the bounty program "particularly unusual and egregious" and "totally unacceptable."
Goodell's harsh punishment is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the NFL currently faces more than 20 concussion-related lawsuits brought by hundreds of former players.
Said the commissioner: "No one is above the game or the rules that govern it."