The NFL Network has suspended analyst and former NFL player Brian Baldinger six months without pay, Sporting News reports. On Friday Baldinger went on the radio with Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic, and recommended that the Eagles put a bounty on and attempt to injure Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, ahead of the teams’ Sunday clash. The Cowboys ultimately won that game 29-23, behind 96 yards from Elliott.
Baldinger’s appearance has been scrubbed from 97.5 The Fanatic’s website, but you can listen to it here. The most egregious parts, via NJ.com:
“And I just want you guys to have the same amount of ... I want you guys to be irked like I am. I want you to go to bed tonight thinking about this guy, and how pretty he is, and how good he is, because all these backs are the same. They’re all pretty, and they’re all special, and they do all these commercials until they just get tattooed.”
“Until you just pound them into the turf. Until you just drill ‘em. Until their head hurts. So that bumble bee is flying around in their helmet, so he just didn’t know how hard he just got blasted.”
“This is the guy that we gotta hurt. This is the guy that we gotta take out of the game. There’s got to be 10 guys that want to hurt him every single play. In fact, we may even put a little bounty on Ezekiel Elliott. Let’s get to [backup] Alfred Morris.”
Baldinger attempted to downplay the whole thing, apparently unsuccessfully:
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The NFL, of course, takes bounties very seriously, or at least would like you to believe it takes bounties very seriously. The New Orleans Saints were disciplined with fines, forfeited draft picks, and season-long suspensions in 2012, after the league determined that the team financially rewarded defensive players for injuring opponents. Many of those punishments were later overturned on appeal.
But the league had bounty pools long before the Saints—back when nobody cared about concussions—and other teams had them around the same time as the Saints, like the Vikings. Football is a violent sport where players can injure each other, and it is undoubtedly beneficial to knock around or knock out one of your opponents’ better players.
Brian Baldinger made the mistake of uttering his comments at a time when the NFL desperately wants to appear serious about player health, and made the mistake of being an utterly expendable analyst.