It started with every touchdown celebration Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens put together. We all thought the NFL just didn’t like them. Then it was using the ball as a prop in general or leaving your feet. Then it was looking at certain quarterbacks the wrong way. Then it was the goalpost dunk. We should have seen it coming—the day where a player would be fined for literally anything.
As they do so well, the NFL took it way too far: players are now being fined for doing their part in raising awareness for breast cancer, domestic violence, autism, or for donning supportive messages for love ones coping with any of the above.
Pittsburgh Steeler and long-time Carolina Panther running back DeAngelo Williams has worn “Find the Cure” eye black for multiple seasons now, but that didn’t stop the NFL from charging him $5,787 for wearing it last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Williams, who lost his mother and four aunts to breast cancer, has always been a huge supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness. In fact, he sought permission from the league to wear pink all season (as opposed to just October), and after being denied, dyed the tips of his dreads pink to get around the NFL’s stubborn uniform policies.
Williams’ teammate, cornerback William Gay, found himself in the same predicament because of his purple cleats communicating awareness of domestic violence. Gay, whose stepfather shot and killed his mother when he was only 7, has worn the purple cleats for the past two seasons, and NFL.com actually ran a featured article on them last season.
Well, as of Week 7, those aren’t allowed either.
“I broke the rule,” said Gay on his decision to not appeal the $5,787 fine the league handed him this week. “I think we all know why I wore the purple cleats.”
Williams will more than likely accept the fine as well. After all, when he asked the league to wear pink all year back in April of 2014, he didn’t really ask. He walked in and informed the NFL that he has over $1 million set aside to pay off any fines they would throw his way.
The NFL eventually convinced him that he could better serve his cause by donating the money. Because saying “It’s okay, we won’t fine you for supporting your mother and thousands of other Americans fighting cancer” would just make too much sense in Goodell’s world.
Gay and Williams now join another teammate, Cam Heyward, in being fined for ridiculous reasons. Heyward got his for sporting “IRON HEAD” across his eye black—a tribute to his late father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who passed away in 2006 after a battle with brain cancer. Maybe Goodell just hates the Pittsburgh Steelers…and their families…
Heyward was originally fined $17,363 for his two offenses; however, it was significantly reduced later on the grounds that Heyward find another way to honor his father (which he does now through charitable work).
“I wish I could answer that question,” said Heyward when asked why the league would fine him for supporting a cause they also claim to support. “You’ll have to ask them.”
“It wasn’t the best way it could have been handled, but both sides wanted it to be resolved. There was more awareness toward cancer, so I can’t be selfish and say I’m unhappy with the outcome.”
I don’t know, if the NFL tried to fine me for honoring my father, I’d probably still be a little upset.
If you want to Find the Cure you damn sure better run it by the league office first.