Name your price

This post originally appeared in the October 11, 2014 edition of the Wise County Messenger. Photo found here.

When I got into trouble when I was younger, my parents always made sure to make my punishment fit the crime.

I can remember one time when Mom found out I paid the child’s ticket price for a movie when I was older than 12 years old, and she made me go back to the box office to pay the theater the 75 cents I had “taken.” It was embarrassing, but it got the point across. If I sucker-punched my younger brother, I got put in timeout. When I broke curfew as a teen, I was grounded for a week and my curfew got bumped up half-an-hour. If I blatantly lied to my parents about something, I was grounded for a month with some privileges taken away.

That’s how discipline’s supposed to be, right? According to the NFL, not really.

In addition to the controversy the league has received for the Adrian Peterson child abuse and Ray Rice elevator punch scandals, the powers-that-be in the NFL managed to get more negative press this week when they decided to fine a player wearing headphones more than another player who caused an injury from a chop-block.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was fined $10,000 this week for wearing Beats by Dre headphones during his postgame press conference on Sunday. Kaepernick did this in clear violation of the NFL’s new endorsement deal with Bose, which states that no other headphones can be worn by a player on camera.

Now, a $10,00 fine is doable, especially if you’re an NFL quarterback who has an endorsement deal with Beats – one that supposedly covers any fines you might incur (Kaepernick declined to comment to the media on that one).

But when you compare Kaepernick’s fine to some of the other ones that got leveled this week, that $10 grand seems outrageous.

Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey and Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas both got fined $8,268 each this week for a late hit and a chop-block, respectively. Kirksey’s late hit on Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker didn’t cause any harm, but Thomas’ hit on Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell caused Campbell to sprain his MCL.

Who suffered bodily injury for Kaepernick’s wearing headphones? Is Bose bleeding from an open wound because another brand got shown on national TV? Did the NFL sprain a monetary ACL because a player violated its policy? Still waiting on that one.

This is the journalistic equivalent of me blatantly making a libelous claim about someone, running it in the paper, and the only consequence was getting yelled at by my editor. Then, I turn around and accidentally misspell a child’s name in a photo cutline, and get fired. Anyone could see that those priorities are a bit out of whack, right? But as Mark Twain (supposedly) said, “Common sense ain’t so common.”

By the NFL’s logic, it makes sense to fine a player more for violating an endorsement deal than injuring a player on a cheap shot. Make a late hit? $8,268. Wear the wrong type of headphones? $10,000. The message is clear: We’ll fine players more for disrupting cash flow, than for possibly causing bodily harm to another player.

To be fair, Julius Thomas said he didn’t mean to hurt Campbell, and football is known for being a violent game. Getting chop-blocked and hit after the whistle blows comes with the territory. But if you’re going to have rules, at least enforce them in a way that’s ethical and does more than pad your wallet.

Maybe Roger Goodell should be grounded and sent to his room without dinner. At least that would make sense with the league’s logic.

Jake Harris is a reporter for the Messenger.


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