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.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I fairness to Horn, his “showboating” was not an attempt at getting endorsements or anything like that. It was to motivate his team.

    He is well known for doing anything he can do to get his team fired up. The Saints are within inches of the playoffs and he is trying to get them there. It might not be pretty but it is his form of leadership.

    If you consider the Saints scored more points that game then they had at home in the history if the organization, (and won 45-7) it must have worked.

    The talk around town is that many people are pissed he did not do it earlier in the season.

  2. tinpanluver says:

    Jon Saraseno’s USA TODAY article today also ridiculed the NFL’s transparency about showboating. His description of what probably would’ve happened to Horn if he did that in front of Ray Lewis is a stone howl!