While freedom of speech might be protected by the Constitution, the NFL once again proved they were above the laws of the land on Wednesday when they fined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach for his post-game remarks about officiating in Week 5.
Just a day after Mike Tomlin told a room full of reporters he didn’t expect to be punished for his comments, news emerged that the league had actually fined him $25,000, according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY.
NFL VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent had already been in contract with Tomlin earlier in the week, presumably to give him a dressing down for daring to speak the truth, but clearly that was not enough for league officials. However, anyone who missed his remarks after the game might be surprised to learn how tame they were given the size of the fine.
“... some of the other stuff, man, is a joke. We’ve gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We’ve gotta get them correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you, but that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”
Considering his statement only included 51 words, that is almost $500 a word for talking about something the NFL’s own television network and official website have been questioning on a daily basis since the season began. Oddly, while it’s fine for the league’s own reporters to question the decisions of NFL officials, a coach is barred from saying a few sentences that are really quite mild by comparison.
With the Steelers’ coach a member of the league’s competition committee, the next meeting of the group should be an interesting affair if Tomlin’s opinions about the state of officiating haven’t improved by then. Oh to be a fly on the wall when that meeting happens.