The NFL Continues To Embarrass Itself By Fining Players For Raising Awareness For Cancer And Domestic Violence In Alternative Ways

While there’s no denying that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has done some good things in his days leading the most powerful sports league on the planet, Goodell’s misfortunes outweigh all of the positive that he has done in, “protecting the shield.”

From the Ray Rice-Greg Hardy-Adrian Peterson debacles from 2014, to the entire Deflategate fallout this spring and summer, the NFL Commish has hurt his reputation in a major way, with some wondering when he’ll just call it quits and have someone else clean up his remaining mess.

I understand and respect Goodell’s mission to help former players and focus on cleaning up the game to limit injuries—particularly head injuries—but one of his major flaws is his approach to players expressing themselves in different ways.

If he wants to restrict the “me-first” culture and penalize excessive celebrations and taunting, fine. But the latest fines that players have picked up are both asinine and embarrassing for the league.

One only needs to look at the Pittsburgh Steelers to understand why Goodell needs to draw a line in the sand and separate self-promotional gloating from support for a good cause—even if it does go against the league’s mandate on how the message is delivered.

Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, whose mother passed away from breast cancer in 2010, has donned eye black with the words, “Find the Cure” on them to help promote awareness of cancer for the past five seasons and, for the first time, was fined $5,787 for wearing them in Week 7.

// other teammates of Williams’, cornerback William Gay and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, were also fined for showing their support in an alternative way on social issues, with Gay wearing purple cleats during a game to show support against domestic violence—Gay’s mother was killed in an act of domestic violence—receiving his first $5,787 fine for repping the shoes that he has occasionally worn the past couple of seasons.


In Heyward’s situation, he wanted to honor his dad—former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who passed away from bone cancer in 2006—by wearing eye black that read, “Iron Head,” which initally cost the defender a over $17,000 during the two weeks that he wore them—though he is appealing and the league claims they reduced the fines.

After having a discussion with the league, Heyward was told that he could support cancer awareness, but he couldn’t personalize his eye black, with the league allowing him to wear the mandated “Tackle Cancer” on his eye black because it was an approved message by the league.

In other words, three Steelers players were forced to pay a total of over $15,000 over a two-week period because they took it upon themselves to support a cause that they believe in and has affected/killed millions of people, doing so in a low profile and nonabrasive way.

We all love our football and the NFL is going to continue to play bully and treat their players like puppets because they can, but this backwards system that punishes good is something that the league—led by Roger Goodell—needs to treat on a case-to-case basis.

Nick Dimengo avatar
Nick's a Sr. Editor for BroBible, mainly relying on his Sports Encyclopedia-like mind to write about things. He's also the co-host of the BroBible podcast "We Run This," and can be seen sweating his ass off while frequently running 10+ miles around Seattle.