If Roger Goodell and the NFL had their way:
1. No NFL player would ever smile.
2. No NFL player would ever laugh.
3. No NFL player would ever react to superhuman athleticism and out-of-this-world ability with anything more than a slight head nod and hearty handshake.
4. After every scoring play, players would jog back to their respective benches, head down, showing no emotion, joy, happiness, elation, or even mild enjoyment.
5. The NFL would only employ literal robots to do their bidding.
6. Etc., etc., etc. (you get the point).
The NFL authority continues to fall further and further into the abyss towards an inevitable rebellion by the players. It has been brewing for many years now, but the stranglehold that the NFL front office has over their employees is becoming egregious.
The policies that the league has instilled have crossed the line from harsh, to absolutely ridiculous. They seem to be dead set on ruining their own credibility. Goodell has consistently had a bad reputation since becoming the NFL commissioner back in 2006, when he took over for then 17-year commissioner, Paul Tagliabue. Just search “Goodell” on Twitter and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.
The wrath of the league’s front office is hitting its peak this season with the various penalties and fines that have been doled out to player’s for their “antics.” One glaring, and recent example of this came this past Sunday, during the Redskins win over the Eagles at FedEx field.
Early on in the game, Vernon Davis was lucky enough to catch his first touchdown in over two years. Reason enough to celebrate, right? One would think! Following the TD, Davis would mimic a jumpshot and launch the ball through the uprights as a means of showing just how excited he was to make a great play against a division rival. The referees calling the game felt this was “excessive” and “unnecessary.” The Redskins would be punished with a 15-yard penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Davis retreated to the bench, head down, distraught because he hurt his team. When in reality all he did was celebrate a beautiful sports play by having some fun. Davis’s teammate, Will Blackmon, was visibly upset regarding the ruling after the game on Sunday.
“You can’t do anything anymore.” Blackmon vented. “I’m surprised we can high five.”
“High fives might be ten yards next week, I don’t know.”
In-game penalties aren’t the only way the NFL is cracking down on excessive celebrations. They are resorting to dipping into the pockets of the players who commit these acts. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 for mimicking shooting an arrow after making a big play. However, Norman isn’t the only one using this as a means of celebration – enter, Saints WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks uses this method numerous times every game. Basically every time he makes an impressive play. The league has yet to catch on and hasn’t made any move towards punishing the 23 year-old. Cooks has repeatedly stated that he will continue to do it until the league approaches him.
“I’m going to figure it out, but I’m not going to change it,” Cooks said to NOLA.com . “The league will have to deal with it. The reason for why I’m doing it and what’s behind why I’m doing it doesn’t have anything to do with violence.
“So I’m not going to change what I’m doing to satisfy what the league wants. That’s not what I’m here to do.”
This is just another example of a player pushing the envelope to try to exploit the league for what it’s doing to its players. Norman is seen as a greater and more impactful player than Cooks, so this could potentially be the league prioritizing the punishment of an elite player to make an example out of them.
Another star seemingly taking a stand against the onslaught of harsh conditions would be Steelers star, Antonio Brown. Brown has been fined on two separate occasions for touchdown celebrations that the league has deemed to be “sexually suggestive in nature.” The all-pro receiver was faced with criticism after he celebrated by twerking in the endzone.
— Alex Iniguez (@alexiniguez) October 3, 2016
The initial fine for Brown was in the $10,000 range. The second fine, which came after week 4, was upwards of $24,000. The NFL clearly isn’t messing around with these celebration fines. Brown could be another elite player being made an example of. Just like Norman, the Steelers WR has that notoriety and name recognition that fans and other lesser players will see and draw a conclusion from.
The players aren’t the only ones facing ridiculous standards from the NFL front office. These policies are even leaking into social media. The specific team’s social to be exact. Recently, the NFL issued a statement to all teams that they will be fined if they post un-approved video to the teams’ social media during games. First offence is $25,000, second $50,000, and any after that will be $100,000, plus restrictions beyond that in the future. These rules don’t just cover video, they are meant to cover any moving media, which includes gifs. This all sounds to me like a ploy to limit the creativity or potentially entertaining content that team’s can produce on their own.
An interesting way to look at this analytically would be to compare fines of players to fines for this new social media legislation. During week one, Darian Stewart of the Broncos was fined $18,000 for an illegal hit to the head of Cam Newton. Say the Panthers tweet a video or gif of this play. The league would then fine Carolina $25,000 for this one single tweet – $7,000 more than the fine for the hit. The league thinks that a tweet is worthy of a larger fine than a potentially dangerous hit to the head of one of their marquee players.
One thing many don’t realize is that these policies and rules being put into place are creating an environment that forces the players to act out. The rules are so harsh and ridiculous, that the players have no choice but to break them. Standing up for what someone thinks is right is often looked at as a bad thing because it shows someone is actively opposing the standard. However, here it is completely justified. One player that has never shied away from controversy, or speaking his mind, is Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He has been an activist and figurehead for the betterment of the players and the league as a whole. Check out this video he put on for The Players’ Tribune regarding the dynamic between the authority, and the players.
It’s a reality: We really don’t have a reason to trust the NFL. pic.twitter.com/Zgg629w2jO
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 29, 2016One shocking thing from the video is when Sherman compares the relationship that the NFL has to its players, to the relationship a NASCAR driver has to its car. Not saying I agree, or disagree with this, but actually? A car is an inanimate object that can be replaced. An NFL player is a human being that most definitely can not be replaced. The saddest part of it all, is that the logic of his point is sound. The NFL views its players like they’re commodities to be bought and sold. The safety, and the wellness of the player is almost never top priority to a league like the NFL.
This piece by Sherman is reflective of the whole argument I’m trying to make. The NFL’s stranglehold on how the players act, carry themselves, perform and think has gone too far. There is no doubt in my mind that sooner rather than later, there will be a major uprising. Players are treated like shills and these new policies and harsh conditions are only separating the two sides further.
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