So, you may have heard, the NFL fined Colin Kaepernick $10,000 for wearing the wrong headphones to a post-game presser last Sunday.
Before we get to the part where I say "it's not so much that they fined him for wearing the wrong headphones...", let's take a moment to appreciate the outrageous concessions a person needs to make to the unassailable moral righteousness of American capitalism in order to excuse a runaway corporate Kaiju for taking money from a laborer for listening to music on his preferred set of headphones where he can be seen by other humans.
Deep breath. Now, all together: they have a right to protect their business interests! You may throw in as many DURR HURRs as you deem psychically restorative.
OK, so, it's not so much that they fined him for wearing the wrong headphones, it's how much they fined him. Ten thousand dollars to an NFL player is, roughly, chump change, and Kaepernick left open the possibility that his sponsor might pay the fine. But the amount of the fine illuminates the NFL's priorities.
Julius Thomas was recently fined for an illegal and dangerous chop block thrown on Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, a play Campbell's coach called "the dirtiest play [he's] ever seen" in his 37-year coaching career. The fine amount? $8,268, the maximum allowed for that type of violation under the collectively bargained schedule of fines. Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey was fined the same amount for an illegal hit to the head of Titans QB Jake Locker, a hit that came after Locker slid into the end-zone and one which caused Locker to temporarily leave the game.
There's a way to read this as the NFL wanting to avoid punishing players too harshly for the kinds of plays that can happen without intent in a sport where players are supposed to use their bodies as weapons. Ignoring, for the moment, what that has to say about the sport, that's probably fair. Furthermore, these fine amounts for illegal hits don't come out of the blue. The NFL and the NFLPA agreed upon the maximum monetary penalty for conduct that excessively threatens player safety. If anything, though, the fact that there is no maximum for violating sponsorship agreements says everything. Player safety, after all, is supposed to be the top priority for the NFL.
That stated position is undermined when Cam Newton is fined $10,000 for wearing the wrong brand of face mask clips on his helmet visor. Or when Frank Gore is fined $10,500 for wearing low socks. Low socks! Or when Chad Johnson is fined $20,000 for wearing the wrong color cleats. In fact, since Week 1, the NFL has handed out 15 different player safety related fines that were smaller than the $11,025 fine they hit Kaepernick with for, um, cursing.
Of course, none of these fines are really intended as meaningful disincentives, not with the tiny fraction of an average player's salary they constitute. All of it, from player safety rules to cursing to barking at officials to the personal conduct policy to uniform violations, all of it is designed to make the NFL look like it cares. Why does the NFL punish wrong-colored cleats more harshly than a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit? They're all uniform violations. Appearances matter.
And now, a list of things that are better than the NFL.
11:50 a.m. — ESPN3 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Estonia vs. England
Plenty of good Euro Qualifier action today. The joy of this one will be in watching the Red Coats demolish poor Estonia.
11:50 a.m. — ESPN3 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Austria vs. Montenegro
Plenty of, well, less good Euro Qualifier action today, too.
11:50 a.m. — ESPN3 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Russia vs. Moldova
Wikipedia tells me Moldova is, in fact, a real place.
1 p.m. — NBA TV — Preseason Basketball: Pistons @ Wizards
Preseason NBA basketball can be a little rough, but it'll be interesting to watch how Stan Van Gundy manages the Greg Monroe/Josh Smith/Andre Drummond front court rotation. These things will start to take shape as the regular season approaches.
2:30 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Luxembourg vs. Spain
It's never a bad idea to tune in and see what Spain are up to. Could be gorgeous! Could be something like their World Cup performance, which was just not gorgeous at all.
2:35 p.m. — ESPN3 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Lithuania vs. Slovenia
You know whenever these two teams get together it's gonna be a 90-minute soccer match.
2:35 p.m. — ESPN3 — UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier: Belarus vs. Slovakia
Roger Goodell will shrink in stature by one millimeter for every American who watches this soccer match instead of NFL football. It's a worthy cause!
7 p.m. — ESPN2 — MLS Soccer: FC Dallas @ L.A. Galaxy
Los Angeles' +35 goal differential is more than twice the next highest in MLS.
7 p.m. — NHL Network — Maple Leafs @ Rangers
8:07 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — Baseball: NLCS - Giants @ Cardinals
Lance Lynn takes the mound for Everything Wrong With The World against Jake Peavy of the Giants.
9:30 p.m. — NBA TV — Preseason Basketball: Warriors @ Lakers
Any old excuse to watch Steph Curry do his thing.
1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
A day-long marathon of SVU for especially committed Ice T fans.
1 p.m. — AMC — The Walking Dead
An all-day marathon leading up to the highly anticipated season premiere, tonight at 9 p.m.
1 p.m. — CLOO — House
Another all-day marathon! You could do worse than House.
2 p.m. — BBC America — Top Gear
A few consecutive episodes will cover you into the late afternoon games.
4 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
This mini-marathon will cover you all the way through the late afternoon games.
4 p.m. — TV Land — The Cosby Show
Another Sunday, another mini-marathon of The Cosby Show.
Noon — TNT — Watchmen
I was not a huge fan of Watchmen. Some people loved it! The sexy sex scene is one of the more embarrassing sequences I can remember, but the movie has some alright stuff here and there.
Noon — abc Family — The Goonies
12:30 p.m. — VH-1 — Pulp Fiction
It must be said: VH-1 is kicking ass lately on their Sunday counterprogramming.
1 p.m. — TCM — Only Angels Have Wings
Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Rita Hayworth in a 1937 drama with some intense (for the day) flying sequences.
3:30 p.m. — TNT — Zombieland
Bill Murray's sequence elevates what is otherwise a fairly ho-hum teen romance story.
4 p.m. — Spike TV — Happy Gilmore
"You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?"
4 p.m. — abc Family — Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Am I the only person who fast-forwards through everything that happens before they arrive at the Chocolate Factory?
4:26 p.m. — Comedy Central — Super Troopers
"Hey, let's pop some Viagras and issue tickets with raging, mega-huge boners."
4:30 p.m. — Chiller — Take Shelter
This is a terrific movie. Michael Shannon is amazing, the dream sequences are terrifying, and the ending is deliciously ambiguous.
5 p.m. — IFC — The Shawshank Redemption
And The Shawshank Redemption pulls into the lead!
5:30 p.m. — TNT — War of the Worlds
I wouldn't go so far as to say this is an underrated movie, but it's certainly not a bad movie. The alien invaders are appropriately scary-as-hell, and Tom Cruise gives a typically gung-ho Tom Cruise performance.
5:30 p.m. — TBS — Miracle
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
That's literally 100% of what I know about this movie.
8 p.m. — TNT — The Dark Knight
Have yourself a day, TNT. Everything scheduled from noon on is solid, quality counterprogramming.
8 p.m. — BBC America — Kill Bill: Volume 2
Watching evil Daryl Hannah have her eye yanked out by Uma Thurman will just never get old.
8 p.m. — IFC — No Country for Old Men
An impressively faithful adaptation of what is, unbelievably, one of Cormac McCarthy's lighter novels.
It's looking like another solid autumn weather forecast for most people. Go outside and run around! Make a day of it. And keep right on ignoring the NFL.