Skip to main content

an open letter to the nfl

a few months ago, when james harrison was being fined every time he stepped on a crack in the sidewalk, some steeler fan started a campaign on facebook to help pay his fine, not because we thought we would really put a huge dent in these unbelievable fines, but because we wanted to show the nfl and the commisioner that we don't like his arbitrary enforcement of the rules.  it was a really powerful demonstration, and you can see the overwhelming results here on facebook.  (if you look close enough you can find my contribution). 

after sending my dollar and note in to the league office, i just kind of forgot about it.  then, yesterday, i received a letter in my mailbox with the nfl logo.  curious, i opened it up and found the following letter:

Dear Greg Milinovich,

We received your letter containing money to be used help pay for a fine incurred by Steelers linebacker James Harrison. 

The player is solely responsible for paying his fine.  Player fines collected by the National Football League are used to support retired players in need and other charitable initiatives supporting youth, education and sports-related medical research. 

At the request of the organizer of this initiative, however, the money from fans like you is being donated to the Beaver County (Penn.) YMCA's Sacks for Kids program.

One of our most important priorities is protecting our players from needless injury.  In recent years, we have focused on minimizing contact to the head and neck, especially where a defenseless player is involved.  This season we have further emphasized the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques and of playing within the rules.  It is incumbent on all of us to support the rules that we have in place to protect players while serving as an example for all levels of football. 

We appreciate your support of the NFL and hope you enjoy the remainder of the 2010 season. 

Rob McBurnett
NFL Public Relations

and while it was nice of them to respond to our effort, i found myself very frustrated at their lack of transparency, as well as their lame and tired P.R. verbiage about player safety.  and so, here is my open letter to the NFL, in response:

Dear Commissioner Goodell and the National Football League,

Thank you for making one of your Public Relations staff members write a letter to me and other football fans around the world who were upset about some of the developments in the NFL this year.  I want to say that I appreciate the effort, but in all honesty I was very disappointed in the content of the letter.  After further reflection, it would have been better had you not sent the letter at all. 

But you did.  And you made three major points.  First, you made the point that James Harrison has to pay his own fines.  Second, you indicated that my money is going to a charity in Pennsylvania.  And then you went on to make to describe your admirable stance on "player safety." 

Please allow me the opportunity to briefly respond to these points.

First, you say that James Harrison has to pay his own fine, and that fines collected from players by the NFL are "used to support retired players in need and other charitable initiatives supporting youth, education and sports-related medical research."  That sounds really good.  It does.  But we need more.  We would like to know which particular "charitable initiatives" are being funded, and who are on the boards of these initiatives.  When you somewhat arbitrarily fine your players, and then don't really let anyone know where that money goes, you must understand that people have legitimate concerns.  Someone is benefiting from these immense fines.  Who?  And who decides who?  Are we supposed to feel better that you know how to use words like "charity" and "youth?"  Because we don't.  We want to know who's getting paid. 

Second, you indicated that my money is going to a charity in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, because the player is solely responsible for paying his fine.  Bogus.  Absolutely laughable.  Since when does that happen?  If Dan Rooney owed me $10, and you sent me a couple bucks to help pay the debt, do you think I would give your money to someone else and tell Dan he still owed me a ten-spot?  Nope.  Not only would it be unfair, but it would be immoral.  The money that we sent to you to pay James Harrison's fine wasn't your money.  It was James Harrison's money, and the only one who is saying it can't be used to help pay his fine is you.  That's bogus and unacceptable. 

Finally, you included a paragraph about how you are very serious about player safety.  I would like to believe that is true, but it is hard to believe, considering that you are more concerned with lining your corporate bank accounts with loads more cash by extending the season by two more games.  Do you really care about these young men?  If so, why are ads for alcohol so prominently featured in the NFL's product, even to the point of having an "official beer" of the National Football League?  In a league where you are trying to avoid situations like DUI's (and DUI's resulting in death) and other unfortunate alcohol-related situations, why do you continue to use alcohol as a way to make money?  Could it be that you're less concerned with player safety than you are personal monetary gain? 

I am 100% in favor of making some changes to make sure that players are safe and to try and cut down on the number of concussions and other injuries in the game.  But as a fan, I am pleading with you to find a way of making and enforcing rules that is fair and reasonable, not knee-jerk, and certainly not arbitrary.  Please Sir, with all due respect, it appears to me that you have allowed the power of your position to cloud your judgment just enough to put yourself in a bad position.  I don't think that is good for the game, or good for you as a man.  From an outsider looking in - a fan who cares very much about the game - I urge you to consider taking a second look at the way you've handled the situation this year, and make some much needed and healthy changes next season.  Please feel free to be in contact with me as I would love to discuss these things with you and hear your side of things.  I love the NFL, and want it to continue to succeed. 


Greg Milinovich, a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers

PS.  Good luck on reaching a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players union.  I really REALLY want there to be an NFL season next year. 


Crafty P said…
Oh my goodness, that is brilliant (on your part)and so well put. I love it- the content of your letter, not their response to you. So, you should totally send that into a paper or something. Really. No, Really.
greg. said…
thank you.
Happy said…
Emoly said…
I agree it is "letter to the editor" worthy. I hope it gets noticed by the big guys. If (and it's a ginormous if) we could all agree that it's gone too far, who would they have to support and watch their games. Are the fans not as important as the players? And we don't get paid.

You said it better.
Megan said…
How can make it go viral?! I like that you looked beyond the obvious to get to the details- I think I would have initially read it and been like Oh Ok sounds good. All your points made so much sense. Have you tried sending it to any of the Steeler fan sites?
Doug said…
since Goodell gave our donations to a charitable organization, should we expect a tax write off from the NFL?

Popular posts from this blog


i made these comments and prayed the following prayer at one of our worship services at SPWF yesterday, and had a few folks asked if i would post them, so there they are: 
It has been a season of terrible tragedy.  And I have noticed in the news a trending phrase: thoughts and prayers.  It even has its own hashtag on twitter and other social media, but net necessarily in a good way.  People are understandably tired of hearing about others’ thoughts and prayers, when that is only a thinly-veiled way of saying that our only obligation to those who suffer is a brief moment of silence, or nothing more than a tweet or public statement.  The truth is that, for those of us who follow Jesus, much is required when our neighbors suffer.  We are called to do justice where we can, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk with God through it all.  But let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  We are, as people of faith, those who know that prayer is not simply an em…

a divided tree

there is a tree in my back yard.  i'm pretty sure it's an oak tree.  at least that's what i think Shannon told me.  i don't know my oaks from my maples, my elms from my locusts.  to me, it's a tree: a corinthian column bursting up into life and glory.  full of sap and pulp and rings and bugs and cells pulsing with water and always reaching for something.  it is full of rhythm, reach and flourish then fall and die, and repeat. 

this particular tree, though, isn't of one mind. 

half of it's rusted orange leaves have given up their grip and surrendered -gracefully or not - to the pull of gravity and the threat of winter.  the north side of this inauspicious oak is just about bare naked, all sticks and straight lines, a skeleton of itself.  but the side that looks south is stubbornly resisting change.  no longer green, the leaves have compromised their summer vibrancy, but they are clearly not ready to concede death just yet. 

i feel like i can relate to this …

thankful right now

"if the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'thank you,' it will be enough." -Meister Eckhart

"thanksgiving is inseparable from prayer." -John Wesley

i've been thinking about gratitude quite a bit this week, and how to foster a thankful spirit in the midst of the barrage of bad news that for me is punctuated by yet another "breaking news" notification on my phone, interrupting the busyness of my day to rudely remind me that the world's brokenness knows nothing of limits or boundaries, not to mention my schedule or sanity.  still, the bad news keeps coming. 

i just scrolled through my most recent notifications just from the last few days and they contain phrases like "crimes against humanity," "57 million users hacked, but not reported," "alleged pattern of sexual abuse," and "extremely disturbing," just to name a few.  how am i supposed to be present at a staff meeting when my phone is buzzing …