I know that the NFL gets some heat for handing out fines for rules that some folks think don’t make a whole lot of sense or are just plain silly. But I, for one, am glad that the league isn’t putting up with any garbage. Next think you know, people will be running around willy-nilly creating subtle, non-intrusive tributes to their murdered friends, and we just can’t have that.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark is the latest guilty party, busted for trying to pay respect to his friend Sean Taylor by radically modifying his uniform. Wait, he did what? And he got fined $5,000? Oh, come on, Goodell.
Apparently, Clark’s transgression was the horrible act of etching the number “21″ in his eye black. That was enough to get his paycheck docked, because…uhhhh…I guess it threatened to destroy the game of football as we know it. Other things that will get you docked $5,000 include blasting someone in the helmet after a play is over or pulling someone’s facemask so hard their whole head turns around. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same thing.
Clark was a close friend and former teammate of Taylor’s, and has been wearing his #21 jersey in practice all year. But he’s not wearing #21 in the games because, well, there’s probably not any good reason. The OBSERVER-REPORTER of Washington, PA explains:
Clark petitioned the league in the offseason to change his game jersey to honor Taylor, but was denied. In last week’s 21-14 loss to the Giants at Heinz Field, Clark had the number 21 written on his eye black patches, drawing a $5,000 fine from the league.
“That’s what happens when you’re a short, skinny guy from Louisiana and not that fast,” Clark said. “That’s how they treat you.”
We should be talking about Clark’s bond with Taylor and the small, but meaningful way he’s decided to pay tribute to his late friend. But instead we’re talking about $5,000 fines. Way to go, NFL.
This WASHINGTON POST article from just after Taylor’s death last year shows Clark as one of the more important friends in Taylor’s life.
Clark was looking forward to this week’s game in Washington against his old team, but probably won’t play due to a dislocated shoulder. He vows, however, to continue wearing the “21″ eye black in future games.