Home Team True Story: Why Sean Payton Was Suspended For 1 Year

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Home Team

Netflix's Home Team carries a wholesome message — however, the true story of Sean Payton's NFL suspension looms in the background throughout the film. Home Team, which was produced by Adam Sandler and features a cast of his usual co-stars, is able to distract from this dark period of Payton's career with some good laughs and a feel-good, true story. However, by focusing on the humor, Home Team doesn't delve too much into why Sean Payton was suspended from the NFL in the first place.

Netflix's Home Team is based on a true story about the Warriors, a junior-high football team that ranks the lowest in their division. Their savior comes from the place they least expected — NFL coach Sean Payton (Kevin James). After Payton received a year-long suspension from coaching the New Orleans Saints, he returns to his Texan hometown to see his son, Connor (Tait Blum), whose childhood he's mostly missed due to his career. In a last-ditch effort to bond with his son and keep the Warriors from finishing dead last, Sean signs on to coach this band of misfits straight to the championship.

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The real-life football story, however, was not quite as heartwarming. The scandal, which is commonly referred to as "Bountygate," revolved around an organized system that paid out bounties to players who managed to hit or injure opposing players. Beginning with their Super Bowl-winning season in 2009, New Orleans Saints' staff and players pooled their money to pay bounties against opposing players like Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton. An anonymous whistleblower stepped forward in 2011 to bring the illegal bounty system to the NFL's attention. Payton initially denied having knowledge of the bounty system, the NFL's investigation revealed that Payton had had full knowledge of the bounties and had failed to end it after being asked to do so by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.

Home Team glosses over most of the details regarding Payton's suspension from the NFL — which makes sense for a movie that is meant to focus on a heart-warming story about the real Sean Payton. In reality, the Home Team true story was no laughing matter for the New Orleans Saints; Bountygate resulted in one of the harshest penalties to ever have been instated in the history of the NFL. Payton was suspended for 1 year for his failure to stop the bounties, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — who was deemed to be responsible for Bountygate — was suspended indefinitely (though this was overturned a year later), and the team was fined $500,000. On top of that, additional staff members were suspended for a portion of the season, the Saints were forced to give up their second-round draft selections, and four players were temporarily suspended for their involvement.

The cast and characters of Home Team take this story from the darkest period in Sean Payton's career and instead tell a story of love and family. Payton has had an otherwise successful career with the Saints — in his 16 years with the franchise, he led the team to win their very first Super Bowl. Payton's suspension was but a brief period in his career, and Netflix's Home Team attempts to bring light to an otherwise dark time for Sean Payton.

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