- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Senate will hold hearings looking into “bounties” one NFL team paid its players to injure opponents, a top lawmaker announced Thursday, bringing the football scandal to the halls of Congress.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said he’ll ask for testimony from representatives of all the major pro sports leagues, as well as the NCAA, which governs most major college athletics.

Mr. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, also said he’ll look at whether bribery laws should be expanded to make pay-for-injury bounties illegal under federal law.

“When an injury is by design and is paid for, we’ve moved beyond any definition of sport,” Mr. Durbin said.

No time has been set yet for the hearings, which he announced in a speech on the Senate floor.

According to reports, coaches for the New Orleans Saints had offered bounties of $1,500 for knocking an opponent out of a game.

Earlier this week, the NFL suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and defensive coach Joe Vitt, and docked the team a couple of picks in upcoming drafts. The NFL also issued an indefinite suspension to Greg Williams, who was the team’s top defensive coach but has since been hired by the St. Louis Rams.

League Commissioner Roger Goodell will now turn his attention to the Saints players said to have been involved in the bounties.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has already taken steps to try to halt bounties.

“We have not heard from Sen. Durbin but would be pleased to discuss the matter with him,” Mr. Aiello said.

Mr. Durbin said a chief area he wants to explore is whether there’s a need for a federal law to ban such bounties. Bribery in sports is already a federal crime because Congress, using its powers under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, has deemed bribes in sports an impediment to honest business.

The bribery law was passed in the wake of a point-shaving scandal in college basketball.