Reggie White ran ‘smash for cash’ program in 1996 and NFL approved it
When players say bounties are something that have been a part of professional football for many years, they are apparently telling the truth. Pro Football Talk obtained a copy of the latest filing in the Saints bounty case, and in it the NFLPA talks about a deal that former Packers defense lineman Reggie White made with his teammates that the NFL approved of. It was called “Smash for Cash” and consisted of paying teammates $500 for big hits.
According to the NFLPA, the league approved the program at the time “as long as players use their own money, amounts are not exorbitant and payments aren’t for illegal hits.” The NFLPA’s argument is that allowing the Packers to do it then shows inconsistency now that the NFL has suspended four Saints players for partaking in a similar program.
“The fact that the NFL has a different agenda today than in 1996 can’t change the unequivocal language of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, which has never prohibited this behavior,” the NFL said in the filing.
The program certainly existed, as White acknowledged after a playoff game in 1996 that he gave away his entire $12,000 game check in $500 increments to pay his teammates for big hits. At the time, the NFL likened it to quarterbacks paying their offensive lineman for good protection. However, there is one major difference the NFLPA has failed to acknowledge: no one said anything about injuring opponents with “Smash for Cash.”
Allegations in the Saints bounty scandal are highlighted by Gregg Williams urging his players to target opponents’ heads. Saints opponents have said that specific parts of their bodies were targeted out of bounds and one former New Orleans player admitted the team was paid for “kill shots.” Intent to injure and what White described as “big hits” are not identical concepts.
In addition to the program itself being slightly different, we’re talking about something that happened over 15 years ago. Since that time, the league has gone to extreme measures to emphasize player safety. Isn’t that a good thing? ESPN used to run a segment called “Jacked Up” that highlighted the weeekend’s biggest hits, but it was nixed for obvious reasons. What was seen as acceptable then may not be acceptable now. That’s all part of the evolution of a sport.