NFL should dole out community service, not hefty fines for minor on-field infractions


Some on-field infractions — like Ndamukong Suh’s blatant stomp — deserve hefty fines and suspensions. But the vast majority do not. (Julian H. Gonzalez/AP)

However, fining Josh Cribs $7,500 for grabbing an opponent’s face mask, or the Browns’ Phil Taylor receiving a fine of $15,000 for a late hit on the quarterback makes no sense and is not good for either the NFL or its players. By fining players for unintentionally committing a mere penalizable game infraction, the NFL has succeeded in living up to one of the league office’s great strengths: the ability to go overboard in unnecessarily punishing and putting down its greatest assets — its own players.

A proper mandate for any sports league where contact is an integral part of the game is to find appropriate manners to deter improper behavior and protect its players. Behaviors which ultimately violate the sensibilities, integrity and unwritten rules of the game have no place in the NFL. Certainly, Suh’s outrageous attempt to intentionally injure his opponent with an unwarranted cleat to the biceps is deserving of more than a yellow referee’s flag and a fifteen yard march off. Suh’s outlandish act violated every rule and code of sportsmanlike ethics and is the proper situation for league intervention and discipline. Such a monetary fine is justified in these extreme cases.

However, the Cribbs and Taylors of the NFL, as well as dozens or more of players each week, who commit in-game penalties, and suffer subsequent disproportionate disciplinary monetary fines is an unnecessary and overzealous attempt to deter penalizable conduct on the playing field. The league must distinguish a line of demarcation between “illegal” on-field conduct and “penalizable” on field conduct. There exists no proper justification for “piling on” to players who have already negatively impacted their own teams on that game day with penalty yards, by then fining them sums of money designed to fatten the coffers of the league’s charitable funds. The arguments for “player safety” and “cleaning up” the games are legitimate, but the reality is that additionally punishing the league’s greatest assets only serves in a negative way to alienate its own players and denigrate them in the eyes of the very fans who pay good money to cheer and watch them play every Sunday. It fosters an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between players and the NFL.

A more positive and productive sanction, if the NFL really feels the compelling need to punish its own players for these types of actions (penalties as opposed to “illegal activities”), would be to require these great ambassadors of “the game” to perform community service for each such adverse conduct. It would be so much more productive if a player receives a 15-yard penalty for a face mask on game day that he would then spend two hours at a Boys & Girls Club on his next off day. Or a penalty for face masking would result in an appearance at a Children’s Hospital, visiting children who would truly appreciate and need the player’s presence.

Of course, all individuals blessed and fortunate enough to call themselves NFL players should on their own give back to their communities; however, additionally requiring them to perform these acts of benevolence would only serve to reward the unfortunate and needy of their communities, building and re-enforcing the NFL and the players’ brands in their cities. This seems like a “win-win” solution to a problem which will properly deter such penalties while creating the proper and necessary good will within local communities. Tis the season to give back and help those less fortunate, and this change of the league’s disciplinary system should be considered, to better the game, the league, its players and their communities.

More from Washington Post Sports:

Early Lead: James Harrison’s suspension upheld by NFL

Tracee Hamilton: Vigilance needs to focus on protection as much as punishment

Early Lead: Ndamukong Suh apologizes for stomp as NFL reviews incident

The League: 10 NFL holiday wishes

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