The new league year opened on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Within two hours, the NFL had issued a statement announcing the imposition of penalties against the Chiefs for violating the rules of the legal tampering period in 2015. Not in 2016, in 2015.
The announcement necessarily got less attention than it otherwise would have, caught in the torrent of signings and other transactions. From that perspective, the acknowledgement of what amounts to cheating by an NFL team will get less attention than it otherwise would have from, for example, Congress or other external bodies that may eventually decide that the NFL and other professional sports leagues need to be governed by an independent agency.
But if the goal of the punishment imposed against the Chiefs was the deterrence of others in 2016 and beyond, why didn’t the NFL announce the punishment before the commencement of this year’s tampering period? The league could have tucked the memo into the late-afternoon hours of Friday, March 4, minimizing the mainstream attention but in turn putting all franchises on notice of the importance of not contacting impending free agents directly.
It’s almost as if the league chose to hold the memo until after the 2016 tampering period in the hopes of catching other teams doing the same thing the Chiefs did in 2015.
So now the question becomes whether another out-of-the-blue announcement of penalties will be issued for violation of the rules of the tampering period in 2016. Maybe the memo will be issued next March, in the hours after the 2017 league year begins.