NFL fans, we are halfway through the 2019 season, and the fines are likely to keep on coming. In a season already marred by an inordinate number of ridiculous calls, no calls, and divergent rules depending on the uniform of the player, I can’t help but notice that the fines are flying like sea gulls over a Wal-Mart parking lot. And just like the gulls, the NFL drops their crap in a hit or miss fashion. It seems as if the system of fining is as haphazard as penalty calling.
In many professions, pointing out miscues can improve the organization. The NFL must not grasp the idea. In an effort to coddle the NFL refs, fines are being handed out to some players who have the audacity to speak out against the consistent failings of the NFL officials.
Recently, Los Angeles Rams’ linebacker, Clay Matthews was slapped with a $12,500 fine for criticizing NFL officiating via Twitter. In his Tweet Matthews stated the obvious, “The storyline for the 2019 season continues to be the refs’ inability to make the accurate and correct calls week in and week out,”
An interesting aside to this particular incident is the fact that Matthews was not criticizing penalties called during a game he took part in; he spoke about the Detroit Lions- Green Bay Packers on October 14. The game is now infamous for the poor officiating. In fact, the zebras did such an atrocious job that New England Patriots quarterback, of the Tom Brady Tweeted his criticism of the officiating that took place during the same game Matthews took issue with, the Packers-Lions game. It is worth noting that Brady received no fine for his Tweets. Clearly, it is good to be Brady.
The same weekend that the NFL fined Matthews, the also handed out a $12,500 fine to Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield. Like Matthews, Mayfield expressed his opinions about NFL officiating. Unlike Matthews, Mayfield did not Tweet his opinions. However, the quarterback is quoted as saying the officiating during the Browns game against the Seattle Seahawks was “pretty bad” and also that it “ticks (Mayfield) off.”
Speculation is rampant regarding the likelihood of a second fine for Mayfield because of his criticism of the fine for speaking out about the officiating during the game against the Seahawks.
During his Wednesday press conference, Mayfield mentioned that he knew he would get fined for the comment about the officials but that, “People have to be held accountable for their job. When it affects my job, it sucks because it is not in my control.”
The powers that be in the NFL continue to bluster about players who dare to speak against officials who are blowing calls on a regular basis. The league apparently believes the best way to deal with the consistently poor officiating is to bully players, coaches, and staff into silent submission. On October 11th, the NFL sent all teams a memo stating that the content of any communication between teams and the NFL office shall not be shared. Additionally, criticizing officials, opponents, and opposing coaches is prohibited.Furthermore, the NFL forbids:
“[c]riticism of officiating which includes, but is not limited to, the following: Comments regarding the quality of officiating, individual calls or missed calls, the League’s officiating department, an officiating crew, or an individual game official; [a]ccusing game officials of acting with bias or in any way questioning the integrity of NFL game officials; or [p]osting negative or derogatory/demeaning content pertaining to officiating on social media.”
In the memo, the NFL promises swift punishment for violators which includes fines or possible suspension of those players or organizations who defy the league edict.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I question the wisdom of the NFL turning a blind eye to the officiating debacle while crushing the players’ opportunity to speak about legitimate concerns. This is a bad look for a sport that already owns exclusive rights to the name No Fun League.