Independent counsel: bounty payments were made

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — A former U.S. attorney hired by the NFL to evaluate its investigation of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program said Thursday the evidence shows players received payments for hits on targeted opponents.

Mary Jo White said in a conference call that evidence in the league's investigation of the three-year pay-for-pain system provided "an unusually strong record" and came from people with "firsthand knowledge and corroborated by documentation."

When asked twice whether any players actually were paid for hits, White confirmed they were without going into specifics. She added that most of the money in the bounty scheme was provided by the players.

"Without them, there wouldn't have been a bounty program," she said.

White, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, was asked last December by the NFL to examine the evidence.

"The factual basis for the sanctions is quite strong in my opinion," she said. "You must safeguard the identity of people that provide information to you in order to protect them, and also to encourage others in the future to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing. This is certainly not a one-on-one, he-said, she-said record at all. This is multiple independent sources."

White saw no merit in complaints from the players' union that it had not received, "detailed or specific evidence from the league of specific players' involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program."

"The players sanctioned all activity and enthusiastically embraced this program," White said. "They always had the option to say no. They didn't say no.

"It is no defense that coaches were involved in it, this was an individual responsibility each player has and each coach has. Each player had the responsibility to say no to this program and they didn't do that. They obviously had the option to report this to the union and they didn't do that."

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