The NFL has a long history of fining players for seemingly trivial uniform violations. For example, in 2013 running back Frank Gore was fined $10,500 for wearing his socks too low during San Francisco’s win over Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. And last year Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. blasted the NFL for fining him $14,037 for “his pants failing to cover the knee area.” Those are just a few representative examples of why the NFL is sometimes referred to as the “No Fun League.”
But in 2020—when the league has more pressing concerns, like avoiding outbreaks of COVID-19 among players, coaches and staff—it seems especially over the top to fine players for minor uniform violations.
Nevertheless, independent NFL reporter Dov Kleiman reports that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and teammate James Conner were both fined $5,000 each for sock violations that occurred during the team’s October 25 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The letter that Conner received hasn’t been posted online, but Smith-Schuster posted his on Instagram, taking care to circle the language relating to the violation: “[Y]our stockings failed to cover your lower leg”—as well as the amount of the fine, $5,000.
In Praise of the NFL’s Uniform Rules?
Not everyone believes the league’s rules pertaining to uniforms and player appearance are too strict. In an article from last year, Andy Benoit of SI.com argued that a lack of uniformity makes a professional football team look, well, unprofessional.
Moreover, “[b]y maintaining strict uniform rules, the NFL also strengthens the impact when players are allowed to wear contrasting colors in the name of a good cause.”
Avery Williamson’s Uniform Number
Speaking of uniforms, on Tuesday the Steelers revealed that newly acquired linebacker Avery Williamson will wear #51.
Williamson was acquired from the New York Jets in a trade on Sunday night. The Steelers received the sixth-year linebacker and a 2022 seventh-round draft choice in exchange for Pittsburgh’s fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained why the organization traded for the former Jet.
“He’s a guy who fortifies depth in an area in which we’ve been challenged recently,” said Tomlin. “We know that we’ve lost Devin Bush and lost Devin Bush for 2020, but additionally to that in recent weeks Ulysees Gilbert has been less than available with a back [injury]. So at the trade deadline we thought it was necessary, if we had an opportunity, to get a known commodity, one like Avery Williamson who we were somewhat familiar with and who was somewhat familiar with our schematics, and put him into the fold.
“With as much ball as we have that lies ahead, it was a prudent thing to do, and we’re excited about having him,” Tomlin concluded.
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