NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn't levy a fine. He posed a question:
Is your money worth a message?
Senders being defensive backs, recipients being receivers.
The copy reading: “Don’t cross the middle of the field. My middle.”
That's the fallout of a flimsy penalty for Dunta Robinson, fined only $40,000 for a vicious hit on Jeremy Maclin: Players figuring how they can stretch their dollars.
They're already paid to win games. Now, players all but begged to make value judgments as to how.
If Robinson, by virtue of his first step or enforcer's rep, can bump his team's chances by making examples of DeSean Jackson (2010) and Jeremy Maclin (Sunday) and making those who follow think twice, why wouldn't he?
Especially if he can rationalize a reward. However intangible, that fear factor counts as value-added. Opponents see the tape, get iffy about crossing the middle. Their stats dip.
Net-net: Robinson's production (or intimidation; does it matter?) pays a premium.
Simple as that.
The payouts wouldn’t be conscious. (Not like teams would be paying bounties.) Still, that's not how bargaining table talks work.
What consequence, if any, would YOU have given Dunta Robinson?
They deal in absolutes. And mind-to-mush hits like that absolutely linger. Maybe enough to tempt.
Maybe not. At least not for most.
But tragedy only takes one.
And the suitors are of plenty. Keep in mind: The motive isn't just for low-end earners looking for deals. Bigger names getting better dollars have the same incentive. Take playoff bonuses. Reggie Bush raked $200,000 for the Saints 2010 divisional round win, $300 for the NFC Championship and $500,000 for the Super Bowl. Their contracts being comparable (Bush's paid $62 million, Robinson's $57, both over six years), you'd imagine similar escalators.
(Details of Robinson's deal here.)
Even after Robinson closes his $65,000 tab, he’d still fall in the black.
At least it won’t hurt. Not like a three-to-five game suspension would have. Sound extreme? Might be. But the league precedent set in 2008 (Jets’ safety Eric Smith on Anquan Boldin), reinforced in 2009 (Panthers defensive back Dante Wesley), of a one-game ban hasn’t left its mark.
So one-up it.
Don’t settle for a fine. And certainly not a lighter one. Remember: Robinson paid $25,000 in 2010, but only after appeal. He was scheduled to lose $50,000 initially.
How, then, does $10,000 less serve justice?
It whiffed on every front.
It didn't charge a repeat-offender premium. It didn't consider a palpable sense of purpose. It ignored the potential for precognition and for vigilante justice. It didn't protect the players (meaning it didn't hedge against future lawsuits).
That said: What, exactly, did Goodell accomplish?
Again: This isn't a warning shot for Robinson. He knocked DeSean Jackson silly this time last year, in the same flagrant and flaggable fashion. For those keeping score, that's not only two strikes against Robinson, but two shots at the Eagles.
All the makings of premeditation.
Maybe not that hit. But a hit, if given the opportunity? Seemed like it. Why else would Robinson peacock while Jeremy Maclin writhed? Haven't brushed up on telepathy lately, so I'll hold off on guessing what Robinson thought pre-collision.
But his body language read like a pop-up book.
Either way, preconceived or not, Robinson seemed proud. That's grounds enough for a ban.
Simply, the NFL dress code can't allow that badge of honor.
Do you think Robinson's history of violence against Philadelphia, specifically, warranted harsher action?
This feeble fine just wrote it in.
That's a problem. Sparing you the "social constructs of masculinity" spiel. But the street cred earned and exuded (and enabled) with that hit is the object of covet for NFL tough guys. Again, a value judgment:
Whether $40,000 is worth the padded Q rating.
The NFL can't have that, baseball's subculture and hockey's blemish: enforcers. It's ugly already, in sports not nearly as caustic as football. (Yes, that includes hockey.) Imagine NFLers taking payback into their own hands. For sure, it won't be 85 MPH change-ups to the meat of somebody's thigh.
It'll be helmets, forearms and elbows meeting knees, chins and temples.
To both business and brains, that would hurt. Especially down the road, when retired players file suit (they will), on the basis that league deterrents didn’t deter. And with every incident, the list of potential plaintiffs ballons, already including Mohamed Massaquoi (hit by James Harrison), Todd Heap (Brandon Merriweather), and Jackson and Maclin.
Sounds like a steep bill in the making.
My question: Can the NFL afford that?
Here's to hoping it doesn't make itself have to answer.