Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Constitution Need Not Apply

This just in from the Department of Absurdity...

The No Fun League came down hard on Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher today, leveling him a $100,000 fine for wearing an unauthorized hat during Super Bowl media day. An unauthorized hat. An unauthorized... hat. They were also going to cite him for wearing a hat without a license, wearing a hat while intoxicated, wearing a hat under the influence, and operating a vehicle while wearing a hat, but thought those rules were just silly.

Seriously, why does Brian Urlacher, a grown man who could inflict physical damage upon almost anybody, have to ask a room full of scrawny, white old men for permission to wear a particular hat? Money, of course, is the answer.

The hat Urlacher was wearing featured the logo of vitaminwater, a company that Urlacher apparently endorses, given that he was drinking said beverage at the infamous press conference. Unfortunately for Urlacher, vitaminwater is not an official NFL sponsor. In fact, only Gatorade is to be consumed by players in public, as it is the "Official Drink of the NFL". As such, Urlacher would have been well within his rights to wear a Gatorade hat, shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear, bathing suit, bath robe, tube top, hula skirt, or mumu, but is getting slapped with a rather hefty fine for having vitaminwater scribbled across his hat.

Its times like these when you just shake your head at what the NFL does. Uniform police aside (different rant for another day), this dictating of appropriate corporate attire has to border on Unconstitutional. Isn't Urlacher simply exercising his right to freedom of expression? To me, it seems like he is expressing his opinion that vitaminwater is better than Gatorade, and therefore more worthy of his endorsement. His opinion is costing him $100,000 to express, and that just seems absurd. What other Constitutional rights have been sacrificed to play in the NFL? Isn't this the same league that ran rampant with felons up until a week ago, and these felons had no repercussions? This act took place after most of Pacman Jones' transgressions, but the rulebook did not have to be rewritten for Mr. Urlacher... the NFL is very clear on what opinions the players may or may not have.

Have you ever seen a player on the sidelines wearing Under Armour? Possibly. Was the logo visible? Definitely not. Players can, by NFL contractual obligations, not show any logo on their clothing besides RBK (Reebok). This very instance involving Under Armour was discussed by John Feinstein in his book, Next Man Up. While on the sidelines during a Raven's game, one of the trainers was asked to cover up an Under Armour logo that was clearly visible, as Under Armour is only a sponsor of the Ravens, not the NFL. So while every player wears it, and most players endorse it, Under Armour is not allowed to benefit from the free advertising that it is entitled to from the support of NFL players.

In all honesty, vitaminwater may be enjoying this story, as any publicity is good publicity, especially when you're vitaminwater. Who has actually heard of vitaminwater before this story anyway. But the principle remains true; the contract rules of the NFL are ridiculously, unflinchingly rigid. Does baseball mandate that all players wear one type of batting glove? No. Does the NBA require that all players wear one type of headband? No. The NFL does though. Ask Jim McMahon.

When former Bears QB McMahon (what is it about the Bears?) wore an Adidas headband during a game, he was slapped with a fine from then-commish Pete Rozelle. The next game, McMahon wore another headband, with ROZELLE written across it (see Chad Johnson, thats called originality in comedy). McMahon was an innovator, and thank god there was someone out there willing to make a total mockery of a horrible rule.

Let's just hope that after Urlacher finished his vitaminwater (while wearing his hat), he asked permission to use the restroom, so as to not take an unauthorized pee.


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