NFL Fining Players for Using Uniforms to Draw People's Attention to Good Causes

By Ben Hamill - November 02 2015
NFL Fining Players

Why, the insubordination of it all! The NFL is assessing fines against players who have had the audacity to make small changes to the standard NFL dress code. And we've thought for the past eight years that audacity was a good thing!

The NFL gave the first fine this season to Cameron Heyward of Pittsburgh for etching "Iron Head" into his eye black. Ironhead was his father, Craig's, nickname when he played in the NFL. Can't have any references to when players heads were supposed to have been made of iron instead of today's highly evolved, deflated brains that cause so many headaches, that is concussions, that the league finds so troublesome.

Recently, the NFL fined DeAngelo Williams for writing "we will find a cure" and a pink ribbon to honor his mother, Sandra Kay Hill, who died of breast cancer. This, despite the fact that the league formally supports breast cancer awareness and research.

This past week, Commissioner Roger Goodell fined William Gay for wearing purple shoes during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The league had used Gay in a short promotional clip to, uh, draw attention to the plight of women at risk for domestic violence. Why Gay? Because, when he was 8 years old, his mother was killed in a domestic violence attack.

NFL Equipment Perfect for Messages

Writing messages in one's eye black goes back at least to the end of the 20th century. Jim McMahon of the 46 defense Bears wore messages in his head bands. Tim Tebow drew the most attention to the practice when he wrote the chapter and verse of Biblical passages he wished to bring to people's attention.

Now, is drawing attention to breast cancer the same as openly proselytizing for the dreaded Christian disease? If anything, the NFL is out there on a limb against stuff like cancer, and domestic violence, and soft balls.

Chaos or Control

The NFL is correctly worried that if it allowed a free-for-all in the eye black messaging department, some players might write, let's say, Toyota, when Chevrolet was the official sponsor of that game's first quarter. Holocaust denial in eye black would be sure to follow!

So the NFL took the high road and banned every message outside of the corporate one. Players must maintain proper decorum at all times except when they are legally trying to knock each other's heads off. Pink and purple are banned colors.

Corporate Thy Name is NFL

The NFL has long been known as the thugs' football league. Purists bemoan the loss of true violence that prevailed as recently as the late 1960's when Dick Butkus literally tried to unscrew some heads. Woe be to the NFL were someone to really see what's inside the average player's head!

The NFL is wildly popular. No championship series has the gravitas of the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, I cannot avoid the realization that the NFL has a death wish. The NFL wants to be seen as the corporate giant among professional sports. But when was the last time a corporate giant scored high on any poll measuring likeability. People eat their food and shop where the prices are lowest, but like the joint? I think not.

Thou Shalt Not Tap the QB as he Throws Another Short Pass

Actually, the NFL is a dull league compared to the Canadian version of football. As I've said before, the Canadian game is far more interesting than the NFL game. The field is much wider and longer, the end zones are much deeper, there are 12 players on the field, offences have three downs. So, the CFL thrives on passing. The NFL pretends that it thrives on passing, too, but it's all based on contrived rules to protect the QB. How much more exciting would NFL games be if the speedy running backs had much more room on the sidelines and the QB's had an extra wide receiver

NFL On a Downward Trend

So by emulating the corporations, the NFL is signaling that it expects its popularity to wane. Now, a report of dissidence within the ranks of McDonald's franchisees comes to light. The franchisees cite McDonald's tin ear when it comes to understanding who they are and what their business is. In the view of these unhappy franchisees, McDonald's has forgotten that it is a fast-serve fast food restaurant rather than a slow-serve fast food restaurant. By making the menu excessively big, the corporation has made it harder for the kitchen staff to serve customers fast. Customers served slowly switch to other slow-serve establishments because the food is better. Thus, the McDonald's brand begins its long march down from the top.

The NFL is at the top but it can't stay there for long. What got it to the top, hard- nosed, even violent entertainment has begun to give way to a less hard-nosed game. When people see that the NFL is a shadow of its past greatness, they will switch to another game. Perhaps the run-and-gun NBA as exemplified by the champ Golden State Warriors. Perhaps hockey, becoming faster every year, as the goons are no longer and skating, passing, and shooting are the prime qualities everyone wants. Maybe baseball, as home run crazy teams like Toronto and Chicago sit at home and watch purity in action: the Kansas City singles juggernaut reaching the top of the baseball world.

Caveats All Around

I do not, emphasis, do not belittle the plight of women in abusive domestic situations. I do not belittle the scourge of cancer. I do not want the NFL to become a goon league again. I do, emphasis, do want the NFL to get off its corporate high horse and realize that ultimately it is the players that the audience identifies with, not head coaches or defensive line coaches or trainers. Players, period! So let the players express themselves and let the fans tell the players when they have stepped out of line.

Finally, here are three suggestions for some eye black messages that the league might allow before it gets with the program and lets the players make their own decisions:

We Live For Ratings

No One Is Forced To Play

Don't You Dare Muss The QB's Hair