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Whenever an athlete does something wrong — skip a practice, get caught with some of that ganja, stab a coach in the face — they end up either be suspended or, more often, having to a pay a fine. Typically, fans scoff at fines; players make so much that a fine is no punishment at all.

According to The Wall Street Journal, fans don't know the half of it. The story details how most fines end up being settled behind the scenes, with agents often making sure the players pay any fine at all. This might seem like an outrage to some, but hey, at least the guy's they're giving the breaks to are good citizens.

Among the athletes who've enjoyed relief from a stiff fine: NBA guard Latrell Sprewell — who actually made money on a $25,000 penalty, because a corporate sponsor stepped in to pay it and the fine was later dropped by his team — and pitcher John Rocker, who ended up paying just $500 of the $20,000 penalty originally imposed by Major League Baseball for his remarks about minorities and homosexuals.

The story also highlights Trail Blazers forward Darius Miles, who was fined $150,000 for cursing at his coach in practice. Where's that money now? Sitting in an escrow account until the Trail Blazers decide how much they will actually collect. Being an athlete is so hard.

When Players Don't Pay [] (subscription required)