The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Rules are rules

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Like it or not, the NFL enforces its strict uniform rules and regulations even in sensitive situations such as player deaths. This might seem petty but it's actually necessary to provide visibility to sponsors, consistency in dress (hence "uniform") and prevent or penalize any political demonstrations. Sadly, these rules leave little room for exceptions as much as I'm sure the NFL's leadership sympathizes with some tributes.

After the tragic death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor in 2008, Steelers safety and close friend Ryan Clark was fined $5,000 by the NFL for wearing eye black with the No. 21 etched into it. Clark's tribute was sincere and meant to show respect for a friend. Still, it violated league policy and the fine, while seemingly heavy handed, was appropriate.

Player tributes have their place in the NFL and the Bengals recognition to Chris Henry Sunday was fitting and respectful. Yesterday, the Bengals wore #15 stickers on their helmets in what has become a traditional means of recognizing the sudden passing of a member of the NFL family (such as Steve McNair) as well as a way of honoring the lasting contributions of an individual to the game (such as George Halas). Games I watched also had a moment of silence in honor of Henry.

Clearly the NFL recognizes this was a young man who had tried to turn his life around and become a better partner to his fiancé and father to his children.

It remains to be seen what, if any, actions Roger Goodell takes over unsanctioned demonstrations. But given the fact that the league went to great lengths to incorporate several appropriate tributes, I have little sympathy for anyone fined.

I can't help but think after hearing all the chatter leading up to Sunday that some folks were more interested in poking Goodell in the eye than in truly honoring Henry's memory.

By Jason Maloni  |  December 21, 2009; 1:05 PM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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