Charles Elmore notes that the NFL has created a rather perverse incentive structure vis-a-vis showboating.
The NFL’s “punishment” for staged acts of unsportsmanlike conduct has become almost as phony as Joe Horn’s cellphone call in the end zone Sunday.
Don’t believe it? Call Horn. The Saints’ receiver practically begged the league to fine him.
What’s $30,000 compared to the millions in endorsements that emerge as a possibility now that the average 12-year-old has heard of him?
“Would I take it back? No, no. I knew exactly what I was doing,” Horn said after the game. “And I understand — I’m quite sure that I’ll be fined.”
It’s not really punishment when they dial it up and ask for it, now is it?
Horn hears what the league says, but he also sees what it does. In exchange for license fees, the NFL puts it logo on video games that sell showboating or late hits as part of the fun. EA Sports, maker of Madden 2004, is planning an NFL Street game to compete with others the NFL endorses (like Midway’s NFL Blitz) that feature taunting, or tacklers taking a running leap at the quarterback well after the whistle.
And Horn sees who gets rewarded with endorsements. It’s hard not to recognize 49ers receiver Terrell Owens on an animated Nike commercial in which he shakes pompons after a touchdown. Wasn’t that the same guy whose Sharpie pen stunt supposedly provoked a tougher stand from the league?
If that’s punishment, players are openly advertising for it. Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL on Tuesday for retrieving a sign from behind a snowdrift and holding it up after a touchdown reception Sunday. The sign read: “Dear NFL: Please don’t fine me again.”