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Sean Payton suspended one year in bounty controversy

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on before his team met the San Francisco Giants in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in San Francisco, Jan. 14, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith)What do Tim Tebow and the New Orleans Saints have in common?  I don't usually write on sports subjects as often as I have this week, but today's headlines haven't given me much choice.  Two days ago I asked where Tim Tebow would play next.  Now we know: New York City.  He has been traded to the Jets and is expected to back up Mark Sanchez.

This is an opportunity for Tebow to play on the world's biggest stage, but I doubt he sees it that way.  One of the most appealing things about his fame is that he tries so hard not to seek it.  He had been inviting people facing health issues to his football games long before anyone found out about his generosityHis foundation will help build a children's home in the Philippines, where his parents were longtime missionaries, but he did nothing to promote the fact in our country.

When I think of Tim Tebow, this statement by Jesus comes to mind: "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:3-4).  Our culture applauds the self-promoter, but Tebow is Exhibit A for selfless service.

While Tebow is the most encouraging story in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints are the most disappointing.  Their 2010 Super Bowl win while the city was still recovering from Katrina was the stuff of legend.  A few weeks ago we learned that Gregg Williams, their defensive coordinator at the time, conducted a "bounty" program in which players were paid extra for delivering vicious hits against their opponents.

Yesterday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for a year, Williams has been suspended indefinitely, and the Saints' general manager has been suspended for eight months, all without pay.  Payton is the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason.  An illegal program that had been undercover for years has now decimated one of this year's Super Bowl favorites.

When I consider this scandal, another statement by our Lord comes to mind: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known" (Matthew 10:26).  There is no such thing as "secret" sin--who we are is eventually obvious to everyone.  The longer we do the wrong thing behind closed doors, the worse the damage will be when they are inevitably opened.

Tebow and the Saints both prove that integrity is our most important possession.  George Washington said, "I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."  So do I.


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