A bright-line rule emerged from last year’s bounty fiasco: thou shalt not have pay-for-performance programs.
The rule, which applies to teams and to players, reversed a trend that had been firmly established in most locker rooms. Typically, the pool is funded via a system of fines imposed by the team or the players who maintain the reward pool.
It’s not surprising, then, that plenty of football fans (specifically Saints fans) have noticed this line from the Seattle Times story regarding the Seahawks’ win over the Cardinals, in reference to cornerback Brandon Browner’s slip-and-fall on the way to the end zone with an interception: “The trip will wind up costing him $100 — the fine from his fellow ‘Legion of Boom’ members for failing to finish the pick-six.”
But having a system of fines doesn’t violate the rules, as long as the players are doing it without involvement of the team and the money collected isn’t dispensed to players as a reward for specific instances of good performance.
From the league office, here’s the relevant language from the league’s internal policy manual: “Players may establish so-called ‘kangaroo courts,’ under which players assess modest ‘fines’ on their teammates for various conduct, provided that they comply with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and provided that any monies collected are not distributed to players. Such monies may be donated to charities (other than those sponsored or established by individual players) or other institutions, or used for a postseason party.”
Still, the mere existence of a fine system should at a minimum result in confirmation by the league office that the team isn’t involved, and that money isn’t being given back to players. It’s unclear whether the league plans to ask those questions.
Saints fans would say — loudly — that the league office should.