Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Jun 2005

When Players Don't Pay

Reader Noah sends along this link from the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, when players are fined in professional sports for rule-breaking, it's rarely the case that they actually end up paying those fines in full (and in some cases they're fully refunded ... with interest). Between leagues quietly reducing a punishment and agents immediately filing appeals to delay the punishment, it's not surprising that that these perceived penalties don't serve as a deterrent.

It's long been established in the criminology literature that swift punishment is the most effective way to deter crime. So instead of leagues announcing monstrous fines that are first appealed and eventually reduced, maybe an immediate, smaller fine levied with no chance of appeal might help mitigate unwanted behavior. At the very least, it's probably worth a try. (free online w/o subscription)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 18 Jun 2005

9 comments, Last at 20 Jun 2005, 3:00pm by Jim A


by charles (not verified) :: Sat, 06/18/2005 - 3:58pm

If a person can get money back that they earned doing their job and their employers are cool with it, don't hate that man.

by dedkrikit (not verified) :: Sat, 06/18/2005 - 4:40pm

That's akin to not "hating" a theif for being able to get away with stealing.

by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 06/18/2005 - 8:25pm

Don't hate the man, hate the genius who thinks that failing to enforce a sanction is a worthwhile deterrent.

As an example consider the hit/maiming that Donovan Darius put on Robert Ferguson (may have been Javon Walker-it's late in the UK) last season. He could have killed the guy and he was fined. If that fine is canceled or rebated, does anyone think it will stop Darius (or anyone else) next time around? Rigorously enforced penalties are a no-brainer.

by zip (not verified) :: Sun, 06/19/2005 - 4:11am

Actually it's akin to a thief getting away with stealing and the victim being ok with it.

A like James said, enforcing penalties is a no-brainer. The people that are failing to do that are the ones worth

by CatholicSamurai (not verified) :: Sun, 06/19/2005 - 2:32pm

Why does the WSJ have to go and insult Rodney Harrsion by implying that he doesn't pay 100% of his fines?

by Dervin (not verified) :: Sun, 06/19/2005 - 10:46pm

I'm thinking of the comment by Tony Siragusa when questioned about his fine for the Gannon hit said something like "$10,000 to get to the Superbowl, I'll make that trade every time."

If the reward is great enough, a fine isn't going to discourage anybody.

by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 06/20/2005 - 5:01am

What caught my attention was the sidebar about where the money goes. "Other beneficiaries that year included the American Ireland Fund ($10,000) the Jewish Theological Seminary ($10,000)..."

Very strange, it seems to me. The NFL and the JTS - an odd couple to be sure.

But what I really wonder is if these legitimate charities have received funds, is there a possibility that the NFL has also (inadvertently, of course) funded the type of charities which have been shown to be fundraisers for terrorist organizations. What would the NFL's legal status be vis-a-vis Homeland Security in such an instance? Would the NFL be treated differently from a regular citizen making the same innocent mistake?

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 06/20/2005 - 12:59pm

How odd. Maybe since my father is an alum of JTS, this is the NFL's way of giving back to Football Outsiders. :)

by Jim A (not verified) :: Mon, 06/20/2005 - 3:00pm

With several high-profile players holding out or threatening to hold out this off-season (Owens, Seymour, James, Walker) it would have been pertinent if the author had followed up on whether these per-day fines are ever collected (a reported $6K per day in TO's case). My guess is that they're usually forgiven as part of an eventual new deal or trade. I also remember reading that in-season fines are simply deducted from a player's pay check, but how easy is it to collect off-season fines?

More interesting to me is the author's implication that fines are more of a PR move than deterrent, and it makes me wonder why we even care. Is the average fan really more likely to keep watching the game if they believe a badly-behaving player is forced to pay a half a percent of his salary to some charity we've never heard of?