USA: NFL punishments not so harsh

Steve Brenner 01:17 06/04/2015
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Text pest: Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer was fined and suspended for texting his quarterbacks.

It was one of the most fruitful and lucrative weeks for the wonderful people in the NFL fines office. And it could carry on for some time yet.

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Over half a million dollars came flying their way following huge fines dished out to the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons for some flagrant disregard of the most expansive of rulebooks.

Ray Farmer, GM of the Browns, was slapped with a club punishment of $250,000, and a suspension without pay for the first four games of the season for texting his quarterback coach during matches. A naïve mistake made by an apologetic man in his first front office role.

Meanwhile, Falcons team president Rich McKay felt the wrath of commissioner Roger Goodell for pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome. No, don’t worry, April Fools day has not been extended this year.

Interestingly, owner Arthur Blank, who made his millions through the creation of the Home Depot stores in the US, used to fill shops with empty cardboard boxes to kid people into thinking stock was flying off the shelves.

No matter. The highly-respected McKay was instantly torn from the league’s Competition committee for three months (he’s the chairman) while the team coffers were hit to the tune of $350,000. The franchise have also forfeited their fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Roddy White, the man involved with managing the stadium itself, would have taken the full force of the NFL’s anger but was fired when the misdemeanors came to light.

The punishments were extraordinary in their value, attempting to send a message that rules are to be obeyed. Yet there’s a feeling both got off relatively lightly.

Nevertheless, the New England Patriots and their Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick should be steeling themselves for a storm.

The Deflategate scandal which threatened to destroy their magical afternoon in the Arizona desert in Febuary, is the next outstanding issue to be dealt with. And, if McKay and Farmer’s punishments are anything to go by, Belichick is going to be hit with force.

Bill Belichick's New England Patriots face punishments over 'deflategate'.

Goodell himself insisted after the Spygate controversy of 2007 that if the Patriots were to veer away from the rules, the consequences would match the crime. This week at the annual owners meeting, he was equally forthcoming about what happens next.

“It’s not about whether or not a team received an advantage or not. The fact is whether the rule was broken. We don’t want people breaking rules,” said Goodell.

Those quotes alone should spell bad news for the Super Bowl champions. Yet, as is ever, there was head-scratching and questions in the aftermath which centered on the treatment meted out to Farmer and McKay.

Why, for example, was Farmer banned for the start of the season when, in truth, it would have been far more hurtful for all concerned if he was absent during the key weeks of pre-season with the draft process looming into view? They have two first-round picks. Farmer’s input is crucial to a team with a stack of problems and an urgent need to rebuild.

Furthermore, the fear of losing a pick was not realised. Farmer would have done his hard yards by the time the season starts. Okay, so the fine is large yet one which a super-rich NFL franchise can swallow pretty easily. The Browns would have been pretty relieved.

The Falcons, however, have been struck with acute embarrassment. For a team whose president is a high ranking official, idiotic decisions have ensured silly season’s been extended. But in terms of McKay, the committee’s work is pretty much done ahead of the new season. And it will have zero effect on how the Browns perform.

Players are banned when it really matters – in the heart of the season. Executives? Well they can sit out large chunks of time when it wouldn’t hurt to slide into the shadows for a few weeks.

Goodell has attempted to hit his friends in the posh seats hard. It’s an effort to prove he’s being proactive towards the miscreants. Yet they are still sitting comfortably. One day, he will get it right. That time, however, is not now.


The perfect record was demolished but at least the action on the court helped ease the shame of a nightmare build up to the culmination of March Madness.

Kentucky’s hopes (they were 38-0 going into Saturday night’s match) of becoming the first team since 1976 to go through an entire season unbeaten were destroyed by a brilliant Wisconsin performance with the Badgers bagging revenge for the defeat at this stage last year to book their place in tonight’s final with Duke.

It was a superb contest and had people talking about sport rather than the politics which had threatened to cloud one of the sporting events of the year in the US.

Duke University will face Wisconsin in Sunday's final.

When Indiana state passed a religious bill which effectively allowed minority groups to be discriminated against, there was uproar and anger.

Calls were growing for the NCAA, who are based in Indianapolis, to change venue in protest at the rulings. Yet when the authorities finally saw sense on Thursday and tweaked the new laws to, temporarily, avoid any further anger, most of the focus returned to the basketball.

History tells us sport and politics are a toxic mix – and this episode emphatically proved it.


There was unbridled joy and excitement in Minnesota last week when they were finally given MLS status. Those in charge of the NASL however, were less than enamored.

Minnesota United will start playing in America’s top tier in 2018 yet the announcement was another kick in the teeth for NASL commissioner Bill Peterson. Desperate to build their league with popular teams, to see one of their bestsupported clubs jump ship was desperately disappointing yet incredibly predictable.

And the increasing animosity between the two organisations shows no signs of abating.

MLS plan to set up shop in Atlanta, home of the NASL’s Silverbacks while Peterson has, rightly, been querying why the US soccer federation have deigned his League to be known as the second division despite the fact there is no relegation or promotion between the two. 

The bottom line is money talks. And until the NASL can match MLS in terms of sponsorship, marketing , attendances and TV deals, there will only be one winner.

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