Sunday, April 22, 2007

Money is NFL's true priority

Kudos to Michael Wilbon who beefed on the NFL for fining Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher $100,000 for wearing a hat. Wilbon, appearing on George Michael's Full Court Press on WRC-TV Friday, properly noted that commissioner Roger Goodell moved more swiftly in cracking down on Urlacher than on player's repeated criminal misbehavior.

Urlacher briefly, and I think absent-mindedly, wore a Vitaminwater-logoed ball cap at an interview leading up to the Super Bowl. Gaterade is the official drink of the NFL. Players are prohibited from endorsing other drinks at league events. Urlacher's offending hat is for sale on ebay.

Wilbon is Washington's most prominent sports columnist. DC locals know that the Chicago native is really a homer for the Bears, Cubs and Northwestern Wildcats, Wilbon's alma mater.

During a game at FedEx Field, I overheard a comment that "the NFL forgives quick" for personal misconduct of players. That doesn't apply when players violate the league's money deals, apparently.

In fairness to the league, endorsements involve large sums of money. You can imagine the blistering phone calls from PepsiCo, who owns Gaterade, to NFL-HQ. If I were in Pepsi's shoes, I would demand some give-backs. There's been no word of what Urlacher's mistake cost the NFL.

The league's response to violations of endorsement deals goes back ten years, I read. The precedent for response to violations is in place. The frequency and nature of recent player personal irresponsibility is a new phenomenon as is the NFL's response. Five or six years ago, an incident was a singular event for the player. Pacman Jones and Chris Henry lowered the bar on impulse control. I think it's a generational thing. Make no mistake, while persistent stories of player boo-boos offend fans, they also affect the NFL's ability to do endorsement deals.

Jones took out a full page ad in the Nashville Tennessean apologizing for his escapades, promising local fans "I will do everything in my power to regain your trust and respect.'' Here's a start. Drop the "Pacman" persona. It's a baby name that just might encourage juvenile conduct. I expect more of Mr. Adam Jones than of Pacman. So might Pacman.

1 Corinthians 13:11

Photo: The Washington Post
Photo: from here.

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