The NFL has a reputation for being overly serious and unnecessarily strict about very peculiar things. Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco depending on the year) was constantly being fined by the NFL for his antics after scoring touchdowns. They viewed it as unsportsmanlike conduct, something that usually just results in a penalty. However, they fined Johnson over and over again. It got to the point where no one took the league seriously and fans began looking forward to Johnson scoring because they knew he would do something to incense the NFL.
The situation with Marshawn Lynch though, is not that. The NFL is repeatedly targeting a player for one of the most innocent objects to the league’s rules. The Seahawks’ running back has been fined repeatedly by the league for not talking to the media. Lynch is not doing it to prove a point or be defiant at all. He simply does not enjoy meeting with the press. The NFL has not consented to accept that Lynch is opposed to being interviewed. Instead, they continually threaten to fine him with exorbitant amounts of money, unprecedented fines as well, until he finally agrees to talk. It is not far from extortion at this point. The NFL is delivering an ultimatum where it cannot lose. Either the league shows its power in levying a massive fine against a player, or it demonstrates that it always gets what it wants, one way or another.
The amounts of money are starting to get out of hand as well. The league apparently held a half million dollar fine over Lynch’s head if he did speak to reporters at the annual NFL Media Day. That is a lot of money in general, but just how does it compare to some of the other fines levied by the NFL. According to a New York Daily News article, it would not have been the most but it would’ve been tied for the fourth most. Those joining him at fourth? Bill Belichick for his role his the Spygate scandal, the San Francisco 49ers organization for violating the salary cap and Jim Irsay for violating the code of conduct policy when he landed a DWI. Granted Irsay was also suspended for six games but he did receive the same fine. Lynch’s refusal to talk to the media apparently was more severe though than Shaun Rodgers carrying a semiautomatic handgun in a carry-on bag at a Cleveland airport or Ray Lewis being charged with obstruction of justice in a murder trial. They were fined $400,000 and $250,000 respectively. Apparently, bringing a semiautomatic weapon and helping cover up a murder results in a lesser penalty than telling a couple of reporters you are not interested in answering their questions.
Maybe that is a little extreme to make that comparison and obviously the NFL would never say that, but that is how it appears. If you fine a player more for avoiding the media than a gun issue or the obstruction of justice charge, it seems like avoiding the media is the bigger problem. The one upside for Lynch is that he showed up and did what he had to so he could leave as quickly as possible. However, he did taunt the media a bit with his resistance to answer questions, repeating, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” to every reporter who asked him something. So what did the NFL do in response? They announced that they were mulling fining Lynch anyway, for wearing a hat provided by a brand that the NFL had not approved. Seriously? This is just getting to be a little pathetic. It was not offensive in anyway. It was a “Beast Mode” hat, Lynch’s nickname. It was a harmless gesture and fans I have talked to found it interesting because it was the former Cal player expressing himself a little.
The one thing that the league clearly has not realized is that it is alienating fans with its treatment of Lynch. The fans are absolutely siding with the introverted 28-year old. We all know that he has not done anything wrong and the NFL is making itself look foolish for continuing to pretend that he has. It seems like the league is intent on having a certain type of player whose personality is outlined and determined by NFL executives. Simply stated: just leave the guy alone. He clearly does not have any interest in complying with the media’s questioning. You are antagonizing a man who is one of your employees, and likely one of the more profitable ones as well. The league needs to stop trying to act as if it controls every aspect of player’s lives. The NFL has managed to overlook issues of domestic violence and sexism this year but cannot seem to accept one of its players is uncomfortable in front of the press. I sincerely hope Lynch continues to stay strong in the coming days as his publicity reaches an all-time high. It might just be enough to get the NFL to change its ways.