By Alex B
Over the last month the NFL showed how schizophrenic it could be in building its public brand. As is now custom, fans saw all the pink to raise awareness and money for breast cancer. Then, in the same month, fans saw the NFL promptly fine several players (Cameron Heyward, DeAngello Williams) for wearing small tributes to honor a father and a mother who died from the very disease. The claim is that these tributes conflicted with the NFL’s uniform policy. So what are these terrible offenses? Writing words of tribute on eyeblack and in the case of, a now disputed fine for Antonio Brown, wearing a pink mouth guard.
When the NFL struggles to find positive stories to build its brand – this dichotomy just seems odd. Added to that, the NFL seems to have no trouble with alterations on uniforms that pay tribute to NFL owners or some other team anniversary celebration.
For example, I don’t recall any fines being levied on the Baltimore Ravens for wearing a huge Art patch during their SuperBowl run. Of course they should not have been – as any player should not be for paying a tribute to someone as important to them as an owner is to a team and the NFL. Clearly, the NFL is quite okay with uniform alterations if it meets their need and their message. They should then be more than okay with supporting its own players in the same way.
With recent tragic events in Paris, we see the power of sports and its athletes’ uplifting messages. We saw it after the tragedy of 9/11. As players did then, many are writing touching tributes on their shoes, helmets or whatever they can find- would the NFL fine them? We know that sports and these small tributes help heal us at a time of great loss. Whether it’s in the face of global or personal tragedy the NFL should shine a big spotlight on players that allow us to enjoy rooting for them because they have inspired us. That should be the NFL’s image. Otherwise, the NFL is stuck being a greedy and clueless organization that fines the good ones but allows players like Greg Hardy to run around the field screaming and shoving coaches only to have Jerry Jones praise his “leadership”. In the end, we may not remember all the scores, the stats but we will remember how a game or a player made us feel.