It did seem like a bit of a double standard when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz were not fined for their near-altercation after San Francisco's 25-19 win in Detroit last Sunday. In case you've been in a cave all week, Harbaugh's over-exuberant handshake had Schwartz chasing Harbaugh down the field and shouting "Poor form, sir! I take offense at your ill-bred lack of sportsmanship!"
Or something like that.
In any case, league spokesperson Greg Aiello brought down the word from the league the day after, and many were surprised.
On Detroit-SF coach incident, fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine," Aiello wrote on Twitter Monday. "However, both coaches told [VP of football operations] Ray Anderson today that their post-game conduct was wrong and will not happen again. ... We believe their response is the correct one and that their post-game conduct going forward will be more appropriate.
This from the same office that handed Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk a $10,000 fine for flipping the bird on the field the same day. Sounds fair, right?
Needless to say, players who are more than tired of a fine structure that has them writing checks back to the NFL for just about anything imaginable are less than pleased about this. In the case of the two coaches, it could certainly be argued that they both stepped on the wrong side of this one:
Sportsmanship: Excessive Profanity; other Unsportsmanlike Conduct (e.g., toward opponent(s), game personnel, fans, etc.): $10,000 / $20,000
But because they're coaches, and no actual fight occurred, and because they've promised to be better next time, each man walks away clean.
On the NFL Network's Thursday "Total Access" show, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Houston Texans receiver Derrick Mason expressed curiosity and concern over the NFL's response. Each player echoed what many players and fans were no doubt thinking — what if two players had gone at it after a game in full view of everyone?
"What if that was a player? How would (the NFL) react to that?," Bailey said. "These are supposed to be the leaders of our team(s), and you let them get away with it, so to speak, and now how do you think the players will start acting? I like it personally, but I just know how the NFL operates today, it's amazing to me they let this slide."
Mason concurred. "I think they should have (been fined), because these are the leaders of your team," the Texans wide receiver said. "I think the NFL should have slapped them with some type of fine, $5,000 or $10,000 here or there, to at least show them they have to be responsible for what they do on the field."
Bailey and Mason weren't the only offended parties. Minnesota Vikings punter and noted social media rabble-rouser Chris Kluwe put it very well on his Twitter account on Friday:
A.J. Hawk fined 10k for flashing a middle finger as an inside joke. Harbaugh and Schwartz fined nothing for fighting. #doublestandardmuch
And player agent Mike McCartney had this to Tweet:
Harbaugh & Schwartz fined $0 for chaotic debacle. Matthews fined $5k for wearing yellow shoes. #doublestandard
Unfortunately, the league probably won't do anything to rectify this issue, unless … well, could you imagine an NFL memo going out to all players that any further discussion of fine structures would result in … fines?
Given recent history, I certainly could.