The NFL has been handing out hefty fines left and right this season. One of the league’s recurring victims is Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Lamb has been fined roughly $46,000 since the beginning of the 2021-22 season. These fines have been the result of an untucked jersey, low socks, an illegal block, and an over $10,000 fine for waving at New England Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills after his game-winning touchdown. Lamb’s experience with the NFL’s fines may make fans believe the NFL is cracking down on its players, but with Aaron Rodgers receiving only a flimsy fine for lying about his vaccination status, the disparity exudes a more nefarious reason.
Aaron Rodgers was fined only $14,650 for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols, which seems a little low in comparison to Lamb’s. Granted, Lamb’s results from five separate fines, but imperfect attire pales in comparison to endangering your fellow teammates by disregarding the protocols preventing the spread of the pandemic. While Rodgers’ fine barely made a dent in his pocket, the Packers were stuck with a $300,000 fine after an NFL review determined that the team should have penalized Rodgers according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Rodgers did not agree with the fine he was facing, since his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 was allegedly due to Rodgers’ health concerns. Rodgers avoided answering questions at a press conference on his vaccination status, claiming he was “immunized,” but did not elaborate on the subject. He instead participated in his own “immunization protocol,” however, scientists assert COVID-19 immunity is gained via vaccinations or recovering from the virus. Rodgers' reasoning for remaining unvaccinated is not the most convincing. Rodgers stated he could not receive mRNA vaccines due to an allergy he has to an ingredient used in them. He never stated what this ingredient is, but it is possible to have an allergy to ingredients in mRNA vaccines. However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine, which makes it a viable option even for Rodgers, despite his allergy. Following the news of Rodgers’ controversial views on the vaccine, two of Rodgers’ sponsors stated they did not agree with the statements he made regarding the vaccine.
Meanwhile in Dallas, CeeDee Lamb has so far been fined 3.75% of his total salary, per Adam Schefter’s calculations. Even with the stacked fines against him, and the risk of paying another $46,000 if his jersey is untucked again, Lamb has acknowledged his role in being given the fines. When asked about his uniform violations, Lamb said: “I just know for sure I’m more conscious of it... I guess I got to look down, pull my jersey down. Stuff like that. It’s weird.”
Second-year player Lamb has shown he can take responsibility for accruing over $46,000 in fines, while veteran Rodgers has evaded taking any responsibility for a fine worth a fraction of Lamb’s. A question arising on social media has been if the NFL should fine veteran players more than newer players, since they have experience and familiarity with the league’s protocols. Others question why two uniform violations cost the same as risking the infection of the team with a virus that has caused world-wide lockdowns. An even larger and more worrisome question is: are fine disparities another sign of systemic racism in the NFL? One would think the health of the players would mean more to the NFL than an untucked jersey and a little wave.