MAC Football: James Harrison Isn't That Poor

James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns during the game on December 8, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

You have all heard numerous stories, both long and short, about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is a mean-spirited authoritarian who doles out fines and suspensions with reckless abandon, eats agents raw for dinner, and drinks the blood of undrafted free agents (second and third statements may/may not be true, depending on which players you ask).

ESPN's Jeffrey Chadiha recently did another bit about how Goodell is attempting to balance his stance as the discipline enforcing, authoritarian employee of the owners and his desires to be seen by the players as an approachable and reasonable leader who genuinely cares about their well-being. Not surprisingly, former Kent State linebacker and current Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison shows up in print.

The reason I bring this up is that some players, namely current Buffalo Bill Nick Barnett, don't seem to quite grasp the financial structure of this league:

Goodell has argued that such a strong reaction, as well as the fines that have been levied against other players since, has been essential because "we're protecting them. I get it if you're a player doing the striking and you want to continue playing the game that way but there's also a player being struck." But Buffalo Bills linebacker Nick Barnett said more players would embrace these rules if they weren't imposed at such a high cost.

"Paul Tagliabue wasn't fining guys and taking their money," Barnett said. "We're going through big changes, as far as the culture of the sport, and it's hard to agree when a lot of money is being taken from you while you're going through a transition. Roger was killing people last season. A guy like James Harrison lost something like 10 years of taking care of his family."

There are a couple of things wrong here. First of all, the idea that the players are less likely to embrace the change because of the financial implications is absurd. The entire point of the fines is to create an environment where you have to learn to adapt to the new rules if you'd like to have the money you are owed at the start of a season match what appears in your bank account at the end. Perhaps a less abrupt increase in the fines (at least initially) would be reasonable, but it is certainly hard for me as a fan to sympathize with an NFL player who makes an average salary of $3 million having to dole out $15,000 for being a repeat offender of the facemask rule (for example).

More to the point, saying something like "James Harrison will be able to take care of his family for a decade less because of what has transpired" is absolute crap, for lack of a better term. Harrison earned roughly $2.91 million in salary and signing bonuses from 2002 through 2008, and since his big payday three summers ago has earned another $21.5 million in salary and bonuses over the past three seasons. In comparison, he has had fines totalling $125,000 and a one-game suspension last season that cost him $288,750.

I am hard pressed to believe that a man who has been fined a cumulative total of 1.77% of his career earnings is any more financially strapped from the consequences of his on-field actions than he is from, say, the money he spent on items used for poor off-field decisions. I understand that compromise is necessary, and the current situation isn't ideal for everyone, but comments like that are not helping anybody.

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