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.
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.