The NFL’s Ridiculous Uniform Policy

Courtesy of Chuck Cook USA Today

Nathan Dent, Sentry Staff Reporter

Two years ago, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara was fined upwards of $6,000 following a game against the Atlanta Falcons. His offense? Wearing Christmas-themed cleats. The fine came as a singular, festive blip in the National Football League’s (NFL) long and storied history of doling out hefty fines for minor violations of its uniform code, a policy that has long infuriated its players. Back in October, Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns was fined $14,037 for not wearing pants that fully covered his knees during a game against the Seattle Seahawks, and a year prior to that, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Antwaun Woods was fined $6,683 for an unspecified issue with his socks.

The NFL’s uniform policy is stupid at best. In its 4,000+ word document outlining the policy, the league delves into excruciatingly pedantic detail about how players should present themselves on the field, describing everything from the proper dimensions of a quarterback’s towel to how pieces of tape should be worn. The policy is long, meticulous and would give even the most dedicated scholar a headache in memorizing it. Many of its details are, quite frankly, incredibly difficult to adhere to – and when players slip up, it can cost them a substantial percentage of their yearly salary (for Antwaun Woods, about 1.3%, to be exact).  It’s important to realize that not all NFL players are making millions of dollars per year, and thus fines that the NFL might qualify as slaps on the wrist could actually be fairly burdensome.

There seems to be an idea that the NFL has increasingly lost touch with over the years: it’s just football. Seriously. At the end of the day, fans (and sponsors) will care a lot more about the quality and entertainment value of a game than the minute details of players’ appearances. People don’t buy tickets to the Super Bowl to critique the alignment of a QB’s socks or the color of the athletic tape on a pair of cleats, they come to watch the action of a game and to root for the team they love. Whether or not a player wears Santa-themed cleats won’t change that. Sure, to an extent, the NFL and its teams do have an image to maintain; but cracking down on the tiniest of infractions does nothing for that image except distort it into one of overly-fastidious spoilsports. 

The NFL stands on the cusp of a new decade, and perhaps as it passes into it, it’s time for it to leave some of its flaws behind. Its uniform policy is one of those flaws – it stands as a draconian and unnecessary measure to achieve a loosely-defined aim, all for little actual benefit for players or fans. By getting rid of the policy, not only would the NFL improve the quality of its games, but to not have quarterbacks with celebrity status airing the NFL out on Instagram would certainly do wonders for its public image. The fact of the matter is that times have changed; so should policy.