Being a professional athlete comes with its fair share of perks, although people who get paid to play a sport for a living do also have to deal with a number of headaches the Average Joe will never have to worry about encountering.
For example, if you manage to screw something up while working an average job, you run the risk of getting chewed out by a superior or (if you really shot yourself in the foot) finding yourself searching for a new employer.
There are obviously plenty of athletes who’ve found themselves facing that second scenario, but pro sports leagues are also fairly unique thanks to their ability to hit players with fines for crossing the line on and off of the field.
The NFL, for example, typically rakes in around $4 million a year courtesy of the players (and coaches) who are forced to fork over a chunk of their paycheck for violating various rules, whether it involves dangerous plays on the gridiron or a blatant disregard for the rules they’re expected to abide by while not in uniform.
I feel like a lot of football fans assume the NFL simply pockets the money it recoups from those fines, which is certainly not a tiny amount but also kind of a drop in the bucket for an organization that generated close to $12 billion in revenue over the course of 2022.
However, that’s not actually the case, as the league has figured out a pretty solid way to distribute some of its massive wealth.
What does the NFL do with the fine money it collects?
The NFL has a dedicated fine schedule created in conjunction with the NFLPA, which features defined amounts for various infractions stemming from penalties, uniform violations, and misdeeds that fall under the “unsportsmanlike conduct” umbrella.
The league is also well within its right to dole out punitive financial punishments to players when it deems them appropriate (DeShaun Watson currently holds the all-time record for the biggest single fine in NFL history thanks to the $5 million that was levied against him following a string of sexual misconduct accusations).
The aforementioned schedule is determined while the two parties negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and both the NFL and NFLPA have a say in suggesting where the funds ultimately end up.
All fines are technically under the purview of the NFL Foundation, the nonprofit with a mission that states it’s “dedicated to improving the lives of those touched by the game of football.”
The NFL Foundation works with a number of other organizations that benefit from the fines the league accrues. That includes the NFL Player Care Foundation and NFLPA Players Assistance Trust (which are used to provide a higher quality of life to retired NFL players in need of financial assistance), as well as charities like the Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Research Center and the Red Cross.
You may not be thrilled the next time you see a player try to remove your QB’s head from his body with a helmet-to-helmet hit, but you can at least take a little bit of solace in knowing the money the tackler will have to pay is going to an admirable cause.