Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, for what may have been the first time in NFL history, was penalized for dropping it low and throwing that thang in a circle after scoring his second touchdown of the game in a 38-16 win over Washington.
Was that penalty - which cost the Steelers 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff - absolutely warranted? Yes, of course, at least according to the league's current rulebook.
As expected, Brown was fined an undisclosed amount for his celebration. Brown, who told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that the fine was "a couple hundred," was also fined for wearing white and blue cleats. For those of you without calculators and copies of the NFL's operations manual handy (read it here; it's pretty enlightening), Brown was likely fined in excess of $21,000 for wearing the wrong shoes and adding an extra pump or three to his twerking celebration.
To add some context to Brown's fine, Denver Broncos S Darian Stewart was fined a little over $24,000 for launching himself headfirst into Cam Newton, the league's reigning MVP. According to my math, delivering a potentially concussing-inducing tackle to the head of the league's golden boy is only about 15 percent worse than wearing fancy shoes and dancing.
Brown, who somewhat ironically spent much of his offseason wearing fancy shoes and dancing, is just one of many players who have fallen victim to the NFL's de facto gag orders. Last season, Steelers DE Cameron Heyward was fine over $18,000 for wearing eye-black that featured the nickname bestowed to his father Craig, a former star at the University of Pittsburgh who died of cancer in 2006.
Prior to last week's games, the NFL threatened to fine Tennessee Titans Avery Williamson for wearing commemorative cleats to pay tribute to victims of the September 11th attacks. Last Sunday's games were played on the 15th anniversary of those attacks. Ultimately, the NFL relented and Williamson got by scot free. A small victory that resulted from an unnecessary battle.
The NFL exemplifies its "No Fun League" persona on a regular basis. Being that Brown's celebration was the most recent, most high-profile (the game was on Monday night, and Brown is, well, Antonio Brown) and most hilarious, it has been...divisive.
"What am I supposed to teach my sons?" "What example does that set for young kids?" "Why can't he just hand the ball off and get back to the sidelines?"
In order words, why can't Antonio Brown just be boring?
Athletes, particularly NFL players, are constantly forced to wear the "role model" label. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL. Frankly, he is already the best wide receiver in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is, by most accounts, one of the most relentless workers on the team and, most importantly, has yet to exhibit any sort of controversial off-field behavior. What more does he have to do to prove his worth as a role model?
The problem with many NFL fans is the fact that we tend to hand-pick our qualifications for a role model. We want players to be role models when it's convenient for our own agendas.
Take, for example, San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. When athletes use their platforms to support specific causes, we collectively groan and urge them to stay in their lanes. Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick's cause or form of protest is irrelevant; some people think that what he's doing makes him a good role model.
On the opposite side of that coin, we have Tim Tebow, who is, almost by definition, an excellent role model.
"Well, he talks about God too much. Just shut up and play (terribly)!"
So, the perfect NFL role model is someone who performs well on the field, doesn't speak up about controversial social issues, keeps most of his thoughts to himself and doesn't perform intricate hip-hop dances during games.
What we want, it seems, is sports without entertainment. Obviously, I was not around to witness the Super Bowl-winning Steelers teams of the 1970's who, I'm sure as many people would love to point out, "played the game the right way" (rumors of steroid abuse notwithstanding). Therefore, maybe I'm spoiled by modern-day stars like Brown or Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski who have a great time on and off the field. I like dancing and pretty shoes. I like when players give themselves a persona. A lot of these guys are the same age as me. Rest assured, my touchdown dance would turn some heads.
While the NFL is doing seemingly everything in its power to remove fun from its league, many fans seem content to support this cause.