No Fun losing its luster



Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) wears cleats in honor of legendary golfer Arnold Palmer during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

The No Fun League. That’s what the NFL really stands for.

Questionable calls, both in policies and fining, have dominated headlines in the 2016 season.

Oct. 12 marked the beginning of the NFL’s new social-media policy. The rule states: “From kickoff to an hour after the game, teams can no longer post their own video to social media. They can only re-post NFL-owned videos on Twitter and use Snapchat.”

Adding to that, any team that fails to cooperate could face a fine up to $100,000.

The NFL has turned into a dictatorship, controlling all content, acting as a gatekeeper for social-media users.

Ratings are down, and in a big way. According to the Washington Post, the average game (through Week 4) drew 16.7 million viewers.

Sunday’s prime-time Colts-Texans matchup achieved the lowest Sunday Night Football ratings in the past five years.

Might I remind you, the 2015 season-opener grabbed the attention of 27.4 million viewers — a record for a season-opener.

Many factors play into the decline in viewership — this election season, more people leaving cable television, just to name a few.

But maybe some viewers are tired of the excessive penalties and fines, many of which stem from celebrations and taunting.

For example, Antonio Brown “twerked” in the end zone after scoring a touchdown in Week 1 against the Redskins and was fined a little more than $9,000 for it. He followed up a touchdown against Kansas City with a “provocative” dance, which earned a hefty price of $24,309.

All-in-all, 13 players have been issued fines for celebrating through Week 5 (putting this into perspective, 13 players were fined for excessive celebrations in the past two seasons).

Those 13 fines handed out this year have resulted in $154,982 in the NFL’s pocket. Through all preseason, regular season, and postseason games, seven fines were issued, totaling $66,548.

If these fines are dished out at this rate, there will be 44 at the end of Week 17. At that rate, the NFL will have issued more fines this season than the past four combined.

Taunting, another penalty that’s a judgment call, resulted in $94,189 of fines, more than the last four years combined.

The fines are inconsistent, too. Desean Jackson of the Washington Redskins lost $6,076 for cleats with caution tape on them. Brown lost that same amount for wearing blue cleats in the season opener. In fact, Brown was forced by league personnel to sit on the sideline until he removed his Muhammad Ali-inspired cleats in a game against the Jets.

But when Brown sported Arnold Palmer theme cleats, no fine was issued.

The biggest fine so far this season belongs to Adrian Peterson (six games’ worth of pay) stemming from his child-abuse allegations. Not counting that fine (which is upwards of $2 million) the NFL is looking at a total of $1,151,488 through Week 5. Averaging that out, the 2016 season looks to rack up $3,198,577 — the highest in league history.

I understand that the NFL has a strict uniform policy, but fining a player for wearing custom cleats? For flexing his muscles (Carlos Hyde), for dancing in the end zone, and for making a bow-and-arrow gesture (Josh Norman)? These ticky-tack fines, along with the new social-media policy, exemplify the NFL’s un-satisfiable hunger for complete control, and that it has taken the fun out of professional football.

My eyes look to Roger Goodell, commissioner of the No Fun League, whose inconsistent reputation took a hit following his embarrassing and pathetic efforts in regards to both Ray Rice and Greg Hardy’s domestic-abuse situations.

Goodell better wake up and realize what will happen if the league continues to dish out a record number of fines and put a restriction on social media abilities. No one wants to watch (or even play) a game where the league entity puts all actions under a microscope, looking for opportunities to tack on fines.

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