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NFL Keeps Good Sense in Rulings

By Yong-yi Zhu


Can you believe how many baseball players are allowed to take performance enhancing drugs? Isn't MLB great at treating the issues that matter to the players, the fans and everyone involved?

The NFL, on the other hand, has handled its touchier situations with much more tact.

I observed this when Jake Plummer, the quarterback (QB) of the Denver Broncos, decided to place a harmless sticker on the back of his helmet. The sticker featured the number (40) of former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, who died in the war in Afghanistan earlier this year. Plummer, who was a good friend of Tillman’s, was trying not only to be a friend, but to also be patriotic in wearing the sticker. He thought that it would be a great way to keep the legacy of Pat Tillman alive.

However, the NFL did not agree.

Because of a dress code policy that players cannot tack any kind of personal messages onto uniforms, the league initially fined Jake Plummer for his sticker and forced him to remove it.

Players all wore the number 40 decal on their helmets during the second week of the season, and the Cardinals will continue to wear it throughout the rest of the season. However, Plummer decided to put his on during the fifth week.

Although the NFL eventually decided not to fine the QB, he was still asked to take the sticker off of his helmet. Plummer was reluctant at first because he thought he should be allowed to honor his friend and a soldier. Eventually, he acquiesced for the good of the NFL, admitting that other actions the NFL was taking were honoring Pat’s memory in a more effective way.

Instead of allowing unregulated Tillman decals, the NFL has established an organization for Pat Tillman, for which they will have ads during upcoming games, The NFL also gave $250 million to build the first USO facility in Afghanistan in honor of Tillman.

There were protests for Jake Plummer against the NFL from Arizona senator John McCain and Colorado senator Wayne Allard. McCain had said that the NFL should not prevent one of its players from paying respects to a “fallen soldier, friend and American hero.”

I feel the NFL handled this situation quite well. Fining Plummer in this case would have been a terrible message and a disaster. It would have signified that no matter what the personal message a player wants to exhibit, the league does not care and will send disciplinary action his way. It would have cast an image of the NFL as a cold hearted organization, not catering to the individual needs of its employees, the players.

Instead, the NFL said that it will work with Plummer and support many other ways to remember Pat Tillman that are more meaningful than just a decal on the back of the helmet. The actions they are taking will matter to people in the long run. Plummer was also able to see the logic in the NFL’s decisions.

In fact, Plummer even said, “When it comes to honoring Pat, he’s bigger than a sticker on my helmet.”

If only other sports treated touchy situations with as much grace and logic. Just think how embarrassing for the league it would have been had they decided to go through with the fine. Imagine if my company had a dress code which said I couldn’t wear accessories, would they have fined or fired me had I worn an American flag pin after September 11th?

The NFL almost ruled against patriotism. I’m glad they didn’t.