Both Jazz and Allahpundit have already weighed in on the Michael Sam draft choice and what it means for the NFL, but I took a different look at it for my column at The Week today. The Miami Dolphins hit defensive back Don Jones with a fine and an indefinite suspension for tweeting his reaction to the seventh-round selection of Sam by the Rams, or more likely, the televised kiss from Sam’s boyfriend as they celebrated the selection. The Dolphins and the NFL have had some embarrassing episodes of late about bullying in the locker room, and whether Jones likes it or not, he’s a public figure whose communications reflects on his team and the league.
So a fine seems reasonable, and a lengthy session of butt-chewing does too. But the indefinite suspension is wildly disproportionate to the offense — and a very sharp contrast to what the league hasn’t punished similarly:
Defensive players usually have to commit multiple helmet-to-helmet attacks on defenseless opponents to even get a time-limited suspension from the league, and those plays can end careers and leave life-long damage. Meanwhile, trash talking during the game has practically become de rigueur for the NFL. [T]aunting celebrations from the School For Talentless Mimes now follow even the most routine tackles. Players spit at each other, and as my friend Jazz Shaw pointed out, a few players in the league mocked Tim Tebow for his Christianity with fake prayer-kneeling on the field.
In other words, the players in this league spend more time taunting each other than in actually playing the game. Yet the Dolphins and presumably the NFL see fit to send Jones to the re-education gulag over an ill-considered tweet far off the field, one that was not even explicitly directed at Sam.
Fox Sports’ Clay Travis noted that the league is strangely inconsistent when it comes to off-field behavior, too. In February of this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged with beating his fiancée into unconsciousness in an Atlantic City casino. A grand jury handed down an indictment for third-degree aggravated assault, perhaps convinced by video footage of Rice dragging her out of an elevator, with no one else in sight. Rice has since asked for a pretrial “intervention” to avoid a conviction and a potential three-year sentence, expressing through his attorney that “he’s ashamed of his conduct and he’s sorry for what he did.”
And yet, as Travis notes, the Ravens and the NFL have yet to do anything to Rice — even though the league has spent the last few years marketing heavily to increase its audience among women. “You get in more trouble for a Tweet about men kissing on a sports television show,” Travis writes, “than you do for allegedly knocking out your girlfriend and being charged with domestic assault? The message is clear: Words matter more than actions.”
It’s impossible to take Jones’ punishment seriously in this context. The Dolphins and the league wanted to avoid embarrassment during the draft, and made Jones an example as a signal to the rest of the league. That makes sense, and it’s important to understand that Jones isn’t owed a spot on the roster any more than Michael Sam is. But the indefinite suspension over a tweet given the behavior that this league either ignores or actively encourages is absurd, as is the Mao-esque demand for a re-education camp as a prerequisite for keeping his job. That doesn’t help Sam, and it should prove much more embarrassing to the NFL than any one-word tweet by a young man without a sense of discretion could generate.
Your thoughts, as always, are welcome in the comments.
Update: Here’s a market signal on the draft selection, via Allahpundit:
Michael Sam might have been the 249th player chosen in last week’s NFL draft, but his St. Louis Rams jersey is No. 2 in sales among rookie shirts being sold on NFL.com.
The St. Louis Rams picked the Missouri product in the seventh round of the draft Saturday, making Sam the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. The jersey of Johnny Manziel, drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, is the top seller. In fact, his jersey has outsold all NFL veterans since April 1. From Thursday to Saturday, the days of the draft, almost as many Manziel jerseys were sold as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Tim Tebow jerseys combined on their draft years.
Update: For those claiming any punishment is not “conservative,” try this experiment. Go out on social media, identify yourself and your company, and claim a new hire is “horrible.” I doubt one would escape disciplinary action for that stunt once it came to management’s attention regardless of their political inclinations, but YMMV.