Is Jonathan Vilma A Scapegoat?
Two months ago, "bountygate" hit the press. Yesterday, the final related suspensions were made when Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove received bans. In the case of Vilma, it was an entire season. Justified? That's debatable. Is he a scapegoat? Once again, that's debatable.
The severity of Vilma's punishment means the commissioner is holding him to the same culpability as coaches Sean Payton and Gregg Williams. Despite the fact that Vilma was never made aware of an NFL investigation into bounties, nor was part of a cover-up, the commish found it necessary to suspend him until the end of next season's Super Bowl.
Why? Because Roger Goodell is sending a message...not just to the rest of the league, but to the 1200 or so former players who having pending lawsuits against the league for head injuries effecting their post-playing careers. Despite Goodell's hypocrisy in the matter (pushing for an 18 game schedule), he cares more about his perceived message in regards to player safety. If the perception is that the league cares about player safety, then the commish is doing his job. Jonathan Vilma's suspension helps him create that perception.
Vilma isn't innocent either. He allegedly helped fund the "bounty" program; but does his punishment fit the crime? Or is he a scapegoat?