In the 1996 playoffs, Hall of Fame Packers defensive end Reggie White made a deal with his teammates: Make a big hit, and I’ll give you $500.
In its latest filing in the bounty case, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the NFLPA says that the NFL knew White was paying teammates for hits and allowed it to continue, and therefore is showing inconsistency now by suspending four players for a similar pay-for-performance program with the Saints.
The filing from the NFLPA in the bounty case discusses White’s “Smash for Cash” program, which included $500 payments for big hits. At the time, according to the NFLPA, the NFL said the program was OK “as long as players use their own money, amounts are not exorbitant and payments aren’t for illegal hits.”
The NFLPA says that the NFL’s rules haven’t changed since then, but the NFL’s PR agenda has.
“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 NFLPA says in its filing.
Although White’s “Smash for Cash” program hasn’t often been brought up in connection with the Saints bounty case, White’s actions were no secret at the time. ESPN did a segment on White’s bonuses, the New York Daily News ran a headline declaring that White had offered to pay bounties, and in an Associated Press article from January of 1996, White is quoted as saying he handed out his entire $13,000 playoff bonus for a win over the 49ers to teammates.
“I gave them money for big hits,” White said. “I don’t know if the money is any more motivation, but I know I paid out a lot.”
The Associated Press article says that White had already told his teammates it would be the same deal for the next playoff game, against the Cowboys, and that an NFL spokesman said there was nothing wrong with what White did, likening it to a quarterback buying gifts for his offensive linemen.
The NFL’s stance on that has changed quite a bit in 16 years.