The NFL earned $42,000 this week by issuing two preseason fines to highly visible players, the Cleveland Browns’ Johnny Manziel and New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham. News that the NFL fines Manziel $12K and Graham $30K is a sign of the league’s acute awareness that NFL players are role models.
Manziel and Graham were fined for very different reasons. The New Orleans Saints tight end was fined $30,000 for two celebratory dunks over the goalpost during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Graham has dunked the ball as his touchdown celebration for several seasons now.
Going into the 2014-15 NFL season however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that such dunks would be eligible for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Sure enough, Graham was flagged twice for his dunks against the Titans.
According to the NFL’s new fine rules, players can be docked $11,025 for their first offense and $22,050 for their second.
Johnny Manziel’s $12,000 fine came as a result of his “flipping the bird” to the Washington Redskins bench in the Browns’ Monday Night Football 24-23 loss earlier this week. The gesture came after a third-quarter incompletion in front of the Redskins bench.
After the game Manziel said there were “words exchanged” with the Redskins and admitted that he should have shown more restraint.
Unlike Graham’s fine, which is the result of a new rule, the NFL has fined others for making the gesture. In 2009 the NFL fined then-Titans owner Bud Adams $250,000 for extending his middle finger toward the Buffalo Bills. In 2010 the league fined Jets coach Rex Ryan $50,000 for flipping the bird to Miami Dolphins fans at an MMA event in Florida.
Neither Manziel’s nor Graham’s coaches were pleased with their player’s respective action.
Saints coach Sean Payton was upset not at the fine, but with the associated penalties. The Saints that night committed 28 penalties, 22 of which the Titans accepted.
Browns coach Mike Pettine, meanwhile, didn’t go so far as to say “fingergate” caused him to choose Hoyer over Manziel as the Week 1 starter, though it may have played a role.
“It did not sit well,” Pettine said of Manziel’s gesture. “I was informed of it after the game and it’s disappointing. Because what we talk about is being poised and being focused — that you have to be able to maintain your poise.”
The following day, when the Browns named Hoyer their starting QB, Pettine specifically said “I think Brian’s been very poised.”