Of all the things the NFL has to worry about, from DeflateGate to putting on Super Bowl XLIX to, oh, domestic violence and concussions, a couple of incidents involving the Seattle Seahawks managed to show just how big the little things are to the league.
The events involved Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman and the league’s obsession with its cash flow, particularly the money that comes from officially sanctioned apparel and officially sponsored gear. Lynch found that he might be fined for showing up for Media Day in a Beast Mode hat — apparel that wasn’t officially sponsored by the league. Sherman was handed a pair of Sony headphones on Tuesday — and Bose is the official league sponsor.
Lynch, who last fall was fined $100,000 for failing to comply with NFL rules on media availability, showed up for his league-mandated media appearance and said, 29 times, that he was there “so I don’t get fined.” He complied again Tuesday, sitting for 5 minutes and saying only “you know why I’m here.” Both times, though, he was wearing a hat that advertised his apparel company, a transgression for which he may well be fined. If he is, it’s likely to be a doozy. The NFL hit Brian Urlacher with a whopping $100,000 fine in 2007 for wearing a VitaminWater hat.
Sherman, who endorses Beats by Dre headphones, was asked to sing along with a video on an iPad using Sony headphones. The problem is that the NFL has a lucrative contract with Bose and does not take kindly to the sight of its players wearing Beats by Dre, for instance. In fact, it fined Colin Kaepernick $10,000 for wearing Beats, with whom he has a contract, while conducting official NFL business, like giving interviews, during the regular season.
Because the NFL has legions of minions devoted to scanning the horizon for the minutest of violations, someone quickly stepped in Tuesday and stopped Sherman from using the offending audio buds, USA Today reports. Last spring, the NFL signed with Bose and banned players from using non-Bose products until 90 minutes after the end of a game and when participating in team-required press conferences, like Media Day. Players can wear them during early pregame warmups — and they do — as long as they aren’t wearing a helmet or jersey. Sherman managed to comply with the request without incurring the wrath of the logo guardians and afterward the Sony headphones were returned to the inquisitor.
But the larger issue and it’s one Sherman imaginatively addressed during the season, is that the NFL might be keeping its eye on the wrong ball. While owners and the competition committee easily are convinced by marquee quarterbacks, like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, to allow each offense to supply its own footballs at games, the league is monitoring Lynch’s compliance with press conference participation, fining him for grabbing his crotch and threatening him with ejection if he considers wearing gold cleats in violation of uniform rules. You have to hand it to them; they’re really, really good at the things that bring in money and Sherman, along with Doug Baldwin, effectively skewered them during the season.
“You know the other day Marshawn Lynch got fined $100,000. Did you know that?” Sherman lamented to a cardboard cutout of Baldwin after the league fined Beast Mode for not fulfilling his media obligations . “They wouldn’t have even paid him that much if he had talked. Gee Louise. But you know who does pay me a lot of money? Beats by Dre, the wonderful headphones that I’m wearing. But the league doesn’t let me say anything about them. Why is that? That seems a little hypocritical. It seems like we’re in a league where they say ‘Players you don’t endorse any alcohol. Please don’t endorse alcohol, please no DUIs’, but a beer sponsor is their biggest sponsor.”
Yes, beer and Bose and apparel companies and others pay them a ton of money, but the league devotes so much attention to those things that fans, see the hypocrisy, just as Sherman does, but the NFL is either oblivious or unaware. Footballs might or might not be deliberately tampered with, but the republic will fall if a player doesn’t toe the line on uniforms and headphones. Hey, maybe the uniform police should become the football police.