NFL appeals process lowers fines for low-paid players

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The NFL’s decision to fine Broncos linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams $20,054 for an illegal hit last week seems particularly harsh in light of the fact that Garcia-Williams makes the league-minimum salary for a second-year player. But there is one piece of good news for Garcia-Williams: He can get that fine reduced on appeal because it represents more than 25 percent of his weekly pay.

An NFL rule designed to cut some slack to lower-paid players reduces fines when they make up a large portion of a player’s game check. Here’s the rule, from Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

“On appeal, a player may assert, among other defenses, that any fine should be reduced because it is excessive when compared to the player’s expected earnings for the season in question. However, a fine may be reduced on this basis only if it exceeds 25 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a first offense, and 50 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a second offense.”

A player’s weekly pay is one-seventeenth of his salary, so for Garcia-Williams, who makes a base salary of $555,000, his weekly pay is $32,647. So his fine will likely be reduced on appeal to 25 percent of that, or $8,162. Not exactly peanuts, but not quite as bad as $20,054.