I don’t like Sean Payton, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints football team, mostly because I’m a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan. I think he runs a dirty organization as was the evidence of his one year suspension a few seasons ago, and I think he leads a team of thugs. That could be said of many NFL teams, but when a coach like Payton exploits that thug culture to squeeze out a few more wins for his own personal advancement I think he opens himself up to an extra level of scrutiny when something goes wrong. And when an ex-star player of his, Will Smith was gunned down in the street on April 9th 2016 Payton didn’t blame the football players involved for their very bad behavior leading up to the tragedy—he blamed guns and took a progressive position socially to camouflage the failure of a culture which he has helped create—and that makes him a scum bag.
Former Saints DE Will Smith and his wife were out for a night dining with friends. One of those friends just happened to be a cop who was involved in a shooting of the father of Smith’s future murderer—later that evening—ironically. Smith had friends in law enforcement and he was a star football player and Super Bowl champion—so he had a sense of entitlement based on his behavior. He was doing good things with his life and looked to be a good family man. He had celebrity friends and was the star of whatever event he attended. All was well until he started driving home and accidentally bumped into the very expensive Hummer driven by Cardell Hayes.
After Cardell Hayes lost his father to a police shooting the city of New Orleans paid the minor league football player a hefty sum of money for which he purchased a bright red Hummer. It didn’t sit well with the football player to be rear ended on a late night Saturday while stopped in the road. Hayes moved toward the sidewalk to get out of the way of traffic and settle the matter with the driver who hit him. But instead of pulling up behind to exchange insurance information, like what was supposed to happen by law, and call the police to file a report, the car driven by Smith ran off invoking a hit and run incident. Well, being a young football player who has had to scrap for everything on every play to get what he needs in life, watching that car run from the scene of the accident was apparently too much for Hayes who gunned off in pursuit of the fleeing vehicle. It was unlikely known at the time that it was the famous Will Smith who had hit him and whom Hayes was chasing. All Hayes knew was that someone had committed a crime against him and he was going to get the guy. What Hayes should have done was write down the license plate number. He would have had his justice and everyone would still be alive. But instead Hayes torpedoed his car into Smith at a traffic light several blocks up the road and the two drivers met on the street for an angry brawl. One thing led to another and before anybody realized how serious the situation was, Hayes shot Smith in the chest six times killing the New Orleans football star.
Hayes stayed on the scene and admitted what he had done to police and everything was cleaned up and looked to be a pretty straight forward case of road rage. But it was in the aftermath that Sean Payton obviously missing his friend and speaking with a heart rooted in tragedy said that he hated guns, and that New Orleans was like the wild, wild, west. Payton used the death of his friend to advance a progressive anti-gun stance without addressing the behavior that actually caused the violence in the first place, and that was disgraceful. It made Payton an even worse person than I already thought he was and he appeared to think as Smith did that his level of celebrity could free him of the burden of judgment. For instance, if Smith was as smart as news reports obviously wanted to portray him in this tragedy, why did he participate in a hit and run? Was he counting on making a call to his friends on the police force to resolve the issue and to ensure that he was above justice because of his celebrity? It certainly looked that way. Payton seems to think that he can make reckless progressive statements because the people of Louisiana want another Super Bowl win so he calculated that they would just put up with his banter without question.
Most of the people I know in my neighborhood have guns and they often carry them. Yet we never shoot each other—even when we get into traffic accidents. It was only a few months ago that a lady hit me on my motorcycle nearly injuring me badly. I was literally a half-inch away from losing my right leg. We were both armed with guys, yet even in such a crises it never occurred to either one of us to shoot each other. I simply yelled at her, and then once I saw how sorry she was, we quickly went to the business of settling the accident. It was a very civil way to settle a tragedy. It certainly didn’t devolve into the kind of violence that killed Will Smith. That is because the problem isn’t guns, its behavioral science. The football culture that Will Smith and Cardell Hayes lived within is built on primal valor and coaches like Sean Payton exploit that pent-up energy to win football games. For young people like Smith and Hayes—who often grow up fatherless, but find social redemption in popular gladiator sports the ethics on a football field often depend on an eye for an eye mentality. There is a lot that goes on during a football game psychologically that never shows up on a television screen for which Smith and Hayes have made their livings and it’s not easy to turn all that off for civilian life. Many football players have a hard time with that adjustment. Will Smith was apparently attempting to do that and he was mostly successful. But when you play a game where the alpha male rules the field and that an entire team depends on your ability to assert that dominance over other alpha males—the nature of the game doesn’t just leave the mind on the football field. It sometimes carries over into the streets of whatever communities they live in.
Will Smith abused his rights as a private citizen when he attempted to roll away from the accident. When he was challenged by another alpha male for attempting to flee likely they said things to each other that required in their minds an ultimate statement on who was the alpha male. Hayes not having any other intellectual resources to guide his actions went for his gun and the rest his history. But it wasn’t the gun that was the problem or that people carry them. It is that we have a society that doesn’t understand how important alpha males are and how hungry young people are to either become them, or yield to them. And for coaches like Payton who build alpha males for the benefit of football victories so that the people of New Orleans can feel good about themselves on a Sunday afternoon—he should have known better than to say the stupid things he did about guns. In a lot of ways Payton was just as guilty of what happened in that murder as the gun was. He breed and exploited the circumstances for which the violence was provoked in a road rage incident and like a coward—he deflected the blame to an inanimate object—instead of the behavior of the participants. For a coach that paid players on his defensive teams, which Smith was a part from 2009 to 2011—to physically harm other players to take them out of a game, the morality of gun violence doesn’t hold much water when Payton helped create a culture that inspired violence against others.
How guilty was Payton, well, for the NFL they came down on him hard—a $500,000 fine and a year suspension. Considering the problems the NFL has had and how much they’ve let go over the years—Payton must have been pretty guilty. If Payton had been a better coach and mentor, it is highly unlikely that Will Smith would have run away from a hit and run accident, or ran his mouth when cornered down the road by the victim. We are all products of our environment and in the world of professional football; the head coach is the judge, jury and executioner of environmental influence. Will Smith was a product of Sean Payton’s professional football teams and that product showed itself most when he crashed into Cardell Hayes then left the accident scene expecting to be relieved of the guilt. Why shouldn’t Smith have expected to not be punished when he watched so many of his friends and fans forgive his head coach and push behind justice just so they could witness one more win in New Orleans on any given Sunday? The answer is, Smith didn’t know better and that was the fault of a culture who made him that way—and the guilt for most of what shaped that culture for Will Smith led right into the office of Sean Payton.
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