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updated: 3/24/2012 7:11 PM

Naperville's stance understandable but Payton still a dubious character

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  • It's understandable that Naperville would stand up for native Sean Payton, writes Mike Imrem, but his transgressions expose a serious character flaw.

      It's understandable that Naperville would stand up for native Sean Payton, writes Mike Imrem, but his transgressions expose a serious character flaw.
    Associated Press

  • Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, celebrates after winning the NFL Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned indefinitely on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players.

      Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, celebrates after winning the NFL Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned indefinitely on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players.
    Associated Press

  • FILE -- This Jan. 17, 2012 file photo shows New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during his season-ending news conference at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La. The NFL has suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is banned from the league indefinitely because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players. Also Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of 2012, and assistant coach Joe Vitt has to sit out the first six games.

      FILE -- This Jan. 17, 2012 file photo shows New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during his season-ending news conference at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La. The NFL has suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is banned from the league indefinitely because of the team's bounty program that targeted opposing players. Also Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of 2012, and assistant coach Joe Vitt has to sit out the first six games.

 
 

Local boy makes good; local man makes bad.

Each of the above is on Sean Payton's resume.

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To me, Payton's first NFL mistake was crossing the players' picket line 25 years ago. His second was being involved in the New Orleans Saints' recent bounty scandal.

Naperville has had to mull this dilemma and instead of coming down on Payton, some in high places have decided to come down on his side.

It's what families and hometowns do when one of their very own is in deep doo-doo. They all but say, "He's a dubious character, yes, but he's our dubious character."

A couple years ago, Payton was famous nationwide as the head coach who led the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory.

Today, Payton is infamous nationwide for his involvement in the Saints' program that paid players to knock opponents out of games.

A former Naperville Central student-athlete, Payton didn't just know about the bounty. He lied to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about knowing about it.

"Bounty?" Payton might have said in their meeting. "You mean the paper towel?"

Last week Goodell suspended Payton without pay for the entire 2012 season for his role in the scandal, for the cover-up and for defying orders to discontinue the policy.

Internet reports indicate that Payton also brought into the Saints' inner circle a felon named Michael Ornstein, who allegedly offered cash to fund the bounties.

Sorry, but I'm not as sympathetic to Payton as pockets of Naperville are. Anybody who makes a mistake deserves a second chance, but in my book of reckoning the bounty business was Payton's second chance.

I'm a former union member who once walked a picket line for 10 weeks. To me Payton blew his first chance by crossing an NFL players' picket line. My stance on this is controversial because unions are controversial these days, but it is my stance.

As Payton's bio on Wikipedia put it, "He was also a member of the Chicago Bears squad of strikebreaking replacement players (scabs) known as the 'Spare Bears' during the 1987 players strike."

A couple years ago, as Payton coached the Saints to a Super Bowl championship, I chose not to mention his anti-union actions. He had not only a local hall pass in his favor but also the fact that he was a young guy during the strike of '87 and young guys make bad decisions.

Forgive and forget, live and let live.

So I ignored that Payton had entered the NFL through the back door. However, I did agree with Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz when he wrote, "My version of the American Dream doesn't involve crossing a picket line."

What matters isn't what a strikebreaker did then but what he has done since. What Payton has done now is condone a bounty system, lie to authority, disobey orders, reportedly allow a felon into the Saints' group hug and overall expose his own lack of ethics.

Sean Payton isn't a young man trying to find his way anymore. He's a grown man who lost his way. One huge mistake is a mistake but a second is a character flaw no matter where your hometown is.

Naperville, great community, great Ribfest, I love you and I understand why any of you would support one of your very own.

But it has to be hard to be proud of Sean Payton these days.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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