Durbin says no hearings on NFL bounties

June 20, 2012 at 8:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- Assistant U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin said Wednesday he will not hold hearings on the NFL bounty scandal because the league is instituting reforms.

The Illinois Democrat had said in March he would investigate the NFL and other sports leagues to evaluate their efforts to protect athletes from deliberate injury by opponents. Steps taken by the league make that unnecessary, he said.

"The NFL has taken the issue of bounties in professional football seriously, and has been open and willing to take additional steps to protect player safety and football's integrity," Durbin said in a statement. "Because of that willingness to address the issue, and due to the reforms the league is announcing after meeting with me today, I will withhold congressional hearings on this matter and continue to work with the league and its players to ensure the league's rules are sufficient, and that nothing like these bounty programs ever happens again."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined the reforms the league is implementing in the wake of revelations the New Orleans Saints had a program in which players were paid when they injured opposing players. The league levied suspensions and other punishments against the team's management, coaches and players who were involved.

Goodell said a letter would be sent to all league employees, team employees and players regarding bounties, the players' handbook will be updated to include a "bounties section" and posters will be placed in team locker rooms addressing the issue.

The NFL is setting up an anonymous hotline to encourage players to report issues relating to bounties.

The league also was sending an e-mail to an estimated 5 million registered NFL fans discussing bounties, player safety and integrity of the game.

Durbin said he has held talks with NCAA officials about what steps they are taking to prevent bounties in college football and to protect players from injury. He said two NCAA committees will issue a statement on the organization's bounty position and encourage its nearly 1,100 member institutions to investigate and prevent bounty programs.

NCAA is to partner with the American Football Coaches Association to raise the issue with coaches at all levels. The NCAA will encourage the reporting of bounty programs through an anonymous phone number.

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