The NFL’s Favorite Tradition: Fining

Bobby McGrane

Traditions are a large part of what makes sports such a special experience for players, coaches and fans.  The NFL is no exception, with great traditions like Thanksgiving Football, the Lambeau Leap and the Terrible Towel. Another of the most well-known NFL traditions is the yearly October campaign to support breast cancer awareness.  Players wear pink accessories on the field to raise awareness about the disease.  Recently, though, that tradition became controversial after DeAngelo Williams was threatened to be fined by the NFL if he continued to wear pink accessories and support breast cancer awareness after October ended.  Williams wanted to honor his mother, who had died of breast cancer, by continuing to wear pink accessories, but the NFL wouldn’t let him. Despite the threat, Williams wore pink “We Will Find the Cure” eye black, and was fined $5,787.  Even overlooking the oddly specific amount of money, this is not a good look for the NFL.  Unfortunately, this is anything but a one-time occurrence.  The NFL’s favorite tradition is now fining its players.

In 2011, Marshawn Lynch wore cleats with Skittles on them.  He was fined $10,000 by the NFL.

In 2004, Redskins Sean Taylor and Clinton Portis both wore red socks for a game instead of the white socks that the rest of the team wore.  They were each fined $5,000 by the NFL.  They did it again the following week and were fined an additional $10,000 each.

On Super Bowl Media Day in 2007, Brian Urlacher wore a Vitamin Water hat to a press conference. He was fined $10,000 by the NFL.

In 2009, Sheldon Brown wore the “Jason” mask during his pre-game introduction.  He was fined $10,000 by the NFL.

Last season, Terrell Suggs did the same thing with a “Gladiator” mask.  He was fined $5,512 by the NFL.

In 2013, Brandon Marshall wore green cleats to promote Mental Health Awareness Week.  He was fined $10,500 by the NFL.

In 2007, Ryan Clark honored the late Sean Taylor by wearing eye black that displayed the number “21”.  He was fined $5,000 by the NFL.

This season, William Gay wore purple cleats to honor his mother and raise domestic violence awareness.  He was fined $5,787 by the NFL.

While some of these fines are just simply stupid, some of them are downright disrespectful.  Now, to be fair to the NFL, it is worth noting that the NFL claims that the money collected from fines goes to charity.   But still, fining players is undoubtedly a punishment.  And should players be punished for honoring loved ones and supporting great causes?