Common Sense

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Richard Sherman, Cornerback / Seattle Seahawks - The Players' Tribune

Welcome to Tuesdays with Richard on Thursdays, a weekly multimedia series featuring Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Throughout the 2016 season, Richard will provide a unique and intimate glance at his life behind-the-scenes and on the field, and share his thoughts on current issues around the league.


Did you see what Andrew Hawkins did after he scored against the Patriots recently? It was one of the best post-touchdown moves I’ve seen in awhile. He caught a pass in the corner of the end zone to tie the game, and then promptly placed the ball on the ground, stood up straight like a soldier and marched away like a robot.

I don’t mean he celebrated by doing the robot dance — he literally just walked away, like a robot.

I thought it was hilarious because, as the saying goes, In jest, there is truth.

This is what the NFL wants, right? It wants players who score a touchdown to hand the ball to the official and walk away. To act like they’ve been there before.

Which is really just another example of the inconsistency — and to a degree, the hypocrisy — of the NFL.

Antonio Brown can’t twerk after a touchdown because it’s “sexually suggestive.” But every Sunday, on most sidelines, there are rows of cheerleaders doing the same types of moves to entertain the crowd.

The NFL doesn’t want players to do anything that might set a bad example for the kids in its audience — such as showboat, or celebrate excessively — yet it features beer ads in all of its stadiums and in almost every commercial break. Josh Norman can’t shoot an imaginary bow and arrow after a big pick because the NFL says that it depicts a “violent act.” Meanwhile, the name of the team he plays for depicts Native Americans in a way that many people consider offensive.

All this is hardly surprising. The NFL is inconsistent in a lot of things it does. I mean, most people can’t even tell you what a catch is in our league. The rule has gotten so convoluted and confusing that it barely makes sense anymore. Even the guys who get paid to make the calls have difficulty applying it.

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The fact that something as simple as calling a catch a catch has become so complicated doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the league’s ability to deal with more consequential issues.

Sure enough, in just the past couple of weeks, the NFL has been faced with one such serious problem: its first high-profile domestic violence case since Ray Rice.

If you remember, after the Ray Rice incident — and after the NFL admitted it had made a “crucial mistake” in how it was handled — the league made changes to its domestic violence policy. In an effort to avoid repeating its mistakes, the NFL declared that any player in violation of its personal conduct policy as it pertains to domestic violence would be subject to a six-game suspension.

The league says one thing — like how seriously it takes domestic violence — but when it comes time to act, it does another.

But then, when Giants kicker Josh Brown was recently found to be in violation of that policy, the NFL suspended him for just one game.

See, what some people didn’t notice about the new personal conduct policy was that within the policy’s language was the stipulation that the NFL reserved the right to impose a longer or shorter suspension depending on the circumstances of the incident.

So basically, there is no real policy. The NFL can do whatever it wants.

I do sympathize with the NFL, to an extent. Issues such as domestic violence are difficult to legislate. No two cases are the same, which can make applying discipline tricky. We struggle in our society as a whole with many of the same issues, so to ask anything more of the NFL is probably unfair.

But while it’s difficult to apply discipline in cases of domestic violence, it’s impossible to do so when there is no clear policy or standard, which the league does not have.

The reality is that the league says that there is no place for domestic violence in the NFL. Its actions in the most recent cases, however, simply haven’t reflected that. This is just another reason why players don’t have a lot of trust in the league. The league says one thing — like how seriously it takes domestic violence — but when it comes time to act, it does another.

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The real problem with the NFL is the lack of a system of checks and balances. The commissioner simply has too much power.

Richard Sherman

I think if the NFL had its way, we would all be robots. We would all be perfect human beings off the field so that the league would never have to deal with another p.r. nightmare and everybody would smile and nod and hand the ball over to the official after a touchdown or a big play.

The funny thing is, if the NFL did have its way, we would lose what makes our game great. We would lose what draws fans to the sport.

We play a game. Part of the joy of watching that game is seeing the emotion on display. Seeing the passion. If guys didn’t play with passion and just went out there and went through the motions, I think people would stop watching.

We’re already seeing a bit of that. TV ratings are down, and I think we can point to the NFL legislating the emotion out of the game as a contributing factor. The NFL is enforcing a policy against celebration. Against joy. Against fun. It’s something I know a lot of players are frustrated with, and it appears that fans may be as well.

Players are being told to “act like they’ve been there” by a group of people who have never been there themselves.

Now, the league is reaping what it has sown.

Part of the problem is that players are being told to “act like they’ve been there” by a group of people who have never been there themselves — Roger Goodell chief among them. I also think one of the things that needs to happen is for Roger Goodell to give up some of his power. He’s not an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being. He’s human, and I think he needs help dealing with the issues facing the league — from unsportsmanlike conduct to domestic violence.

Neutral arbitration would solve a lot of the NFL’s issues. If there was a third-party arbitrator — somebody with no skin in the game and no shield to protect — making decisions on fines and suspensions, I think you’d see a greater degree of objectivity. There should be a committee of former players and coaches to sort through on-field actions, and panels of experts for off-field issues.

The real problem with the NFL is the lack of a system of checks and balances.

The commissioner simply has too much power.

At the end of the day, fans don’t want to watch robots. They want to watch players having fun and showing emotion. I’m with them. I think what they also want is for the league to be consistent in its discipline. To be transparent. To do what it says it’s going to do and to use a little common sense.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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