NFL Fines for Foul Language Help Control Image, But Punishments Need Consistency

NFL Fines for Foul Language Help Control Image, But Punishments Need ConsistencyIt's safe to say few New Englanders were upset when the NFL fined Jets coach Rex Ryan for swearing at a fan while leaving the field.

The incident, which was caught on video by a fan with a cell phone, has generated debate among NFL fans. Is fining NFL personnel for foul language important for the league to control its image, or is it another futile attempt by the league to control behavior?

NESN.com Patriots beat writer Jeff Howe and senior assistant editor Michael Hurley offer opposing views in this week's debate.

Jeff Howe:

I don't think anyone should have a problem with swearing during the game if it stays within the confines of the field, but head coaches like Rex Ryan shouldn't be telling fans how to spend the rest of their day in that type of manner. Everyone on the field is an ambassador of the NFL brand, and if the league wants to hold its guys to a high standard, it's got to make sure players and coaches aren't swearing at the paying customers, even if they deserve it.

Michael Hurley:

What about the fact that it exposes the NFL for some inconsistencies (Hard Knocks, anyone?) and that such fines/penalties are unenforceable, as YouTube vigilantes become the couriers of justice?

Jeff Howe:

If this is about Rex Ryan's fine, I think the NFL was in the right to send a message that it won't tolerate its coaches and players swearing at the fans. I'm sure this stuff happens all the time, but Ryan was guilty of getting YouTube'd during his brief outburst.

Look, I've been on the sideline at the ends of games and heard some nasty stuff from fans — the type of stuff that would cause their mothers to jam a turkey baster down their throat on Thanksgiving. And even if the players and coaches deserve the right to defend themselves and fire one back, they've got to hold themselves to a higher standard in that situation. When they're on the field, they represent their organization and the NFL as a whole (that's "a whole," not "a-hole").

The NFL made its money by airing Ryan's expletive-laden speeches on Hard Knocks, for sure, but he was yelling at his own guys, not the people who pay for tickets. There's a line between entertaining and insulting, and the NFL has drawn it.

Michael Hurley:

I'd argue that rather than draw any sort of line, the league has only worked to obscure it. What if Rex Ryan, rather than saying "Shut the [swear word] up," said something like, "Hey, [lesser swear word] you," or "Go to hell," or "Get out of here"?

Would the fines be administered for less money based on the severity of the swear word used? Is it $75,000 for what Ryan did actually say, $50,000 for words you can say on cable TV, $25,000 for words you can say on network TV and $10,000 for just being plain mean?

Obviously, that's a ridiculous question, but it's just to point out the challenging precedent that was set. It's unenforceable, because the league can't monitor every exchange between fans and players and coaches, and it seems (like many of the NFL's fines) to be one that will be made at the whim of Roger Goodell. Such is the way of life in the NFL these days, and even if the fine for Ryan was fair, the fact that other guys have done the same exact thing and haven't been exposed on YouTube points to the issues with such a penalty.

Worst of all, the league no doubt loved the fact that Rex became a megastar for shouting the unforgettable seven words, "Let's go to eat a goddamn snack!"

Who do you agree with? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Should NFL personnel be fined for using profanity on the field during a game?

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