Fining Athletes for Bad Behavior
Rich athletes can afford to get fined for irresponsible behavior – so is there a better way to incentivize fair play?
Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project
Now here’s a moniker no one ever wanted: “Dirtiest Player in the League.”
Last year, Sporting News’ network of NFL correspondents asked 103 players from 27 teams all sorts of questions in their annual midseason player poll; among them, who is the league’s dirtiest player? The answer, by a wide margin, was Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Among the responses – this from an unidentified NFC defensive player: “Ndamukong Su. I mean, the step-on and the choke and the kick and the arm bar. Enough said, right?”
This season, the NFL has fined Suh for $100,000 for an illegal low block behind the knee of Vikings center John Sullivan. As for the play, Sporting News quoted Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen as saying that some plays are borderline, “but you can’t take a dude’s legs out from behind on an interception when he’s running down the field. To me, there’s just no room for that.”
Suh is appealing the fine, the largest ever for on-the-field conduct. The question is: For a player who makes upwards of $11 million a year, does a $100,000 fine even constitute a slap on the wrist? According to ESPN, Suh restructured his contract for this season, changing his payment into an $11.5 million signing bonus and a $630,000 salary (putting his weekly checks at $39,375 for the Lions’ 16 games).
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith tweeted last Tuesday that he has reached out to Suh. “We believe that all players have a basic responsibility to each other.”
So far, Suh has apologized, and Sullivan told ESPN he believes there was no intent to injure. Still, Suh has been fined multiple times “for roughing up quarterbacks,” according to ESPN.
In an NFL Network interview, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said, “I hesitate to call a player dirty simply because I don’t know their intent, but I do know what he did was illegal and I do know he has done it multiple times so it comes a time when enough is enough.”
When do you think enough is enough? When fines constitute such a small fraction of a player’s pay, should there be other consequences? Should players be given a certain number of “strikes” before they’re suspended – or out? Weigh in.