When I was a wee lad, I played on the town’s soccer club. During practice one day, the coach noticed that a kid named T.J. was wearing a friendship bracelet on one of his wrists. This wasn’t one of those elastic Livestrong things, this was one of those braided ones, not dissimilar in strength to a thin piece of rope. It wasn’t football, so the coach didn’t call him a sissy or anything. But the coach did make him take it off, pointing out that an opponent (or teammate) could break or even lose a finger if it got caught in it. [Later on that poor kid got his scrotum torn open by a spinning bike wheel when he was riding on the back pegs and his feet slipped off. But I digress.]
I don’t think the NFL should allow players to wear chains on the field. If they’re strong enough that they don’t tear away easily, they are a potential safety hazard, and if they are weak enough to tear away easily, they have the potential to disrupt play by littering the field. But the NFL does allow players to wear chains on the field, so they need to have a policy for when players fuck with each other’s chains. My understanding is that the league currently treats it as part of the uniform, similar to long hair or dreadlocks. It’s perfectly legal to grab it during a play. But if an opposing player walked up to Richard Sherman after a play and yanked out one of his dreadlocks, you can be damn sure the NFL would punish…wait, let’s start over, let’s say an opposing player pulled Clay Matthews’ long and luxurious hair, you can be damn sure the officials and/or the NFL wouldn’t let it slide*. It’s behavior that’s designed to instigate a fight, and that’s unsportsmanlike conduct, plain and simple, and it needs to be penalized.
And this, of course, is why I’m so furious that Michael Crabtree is getting suspended for the same number of games as that poster boy for PFT’s definition of “thug” Aqib Talib.
Last year, Talib announced that he planned to rip off Crabtree’s chain. And he did. Crabtree didn’t react as Talib might have hoped – Crabtree described his lack of response as a “business decision” with the expectation that the league would discipline Talib for his transparent attempt to bait Crabtree into a fight. But the league didn’t do jack shit. Which sent a message to each player, loud and clear. The first, to Talib (a player who has previously been suspended for four games for a substance violation and one game for a deliberate eye poke), was that he had the league’s tacit approval to try to bait opposing players into fights. The second, to Crabtree, was that the league wasn’t going to reward him for his restraint, and that he was going to have to take these matters into his own hands.
Which of course, he did.
I’d like to see fellow players in the NFL respond by pointing out the hypocrisy of the NFL suspending players for fighting, but ignoring the actions that instigate those fights in the first place. If they see a fellow player wearing a chain, yank it off. I don’t think it’s technically against the rules for players to throw whipped cream pies or water balloons at each other, so I’d like to see some of that. Choreograph an end-zone celebration of an opposing player’s mom getting gangbanged (I don’t know how you’d do this without props like a wig, but the players are exhibiting some impressive creativity with their celebrations these days so I’m sure they’ll figure something out). Anything that pushes the line of “well, the NFL didn’t punish that, so they really can’t justify punishing this.”
As for me, I’m going to show my support for Crabtree by purchasing a jersey. But I won’t be paying $140 for it. And I won’t be ordering it via the NFL Shop.
*Unless of course the sliding player was Cam Newton, in which case the NFL would declare that he hadn’t begun the sliding motion yet and award Cam one free concussion.