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The NFL’s Ridiculous Uniform Policy, Illustrated

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Take a minute to realize and subsequently shake your head about exactly how absurd the NFL’s uniform policy really is.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Houston Texans
Trading jerseys is probably a uniform violation.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Did you ever think to yourself...

''Y'know, being an NFL player must be one of the coolest jobs in the world. I mean, think of all the money you get paid for playing a game that you enjoy playing and that you've enjoyed playing all of your life."

I know I have. At least I used to. That was before I found out that it isn't all sunshine and head trauma for NFL players. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially when stuff like this happens to you:

#Texans safety Corey Moore says he was fined $6715 for not wearing his socks properly in the game against Dallas. He is appealing.

— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) September 9, 2016

Perhaps you're like me, and when you see that Tweet, you think ''This can't be true; no organisation is that petty/anally retentive." Unfortunately, we would both be wrong. The next question is obviously, ''What the hell does not wearing socks properly’ mean?".

Now, this isn't going to be a piece that's going to conduct an in-depth investigation into whether or not Corey Moore was wrongly persecuted for how he wears his socks. I want to focus on something else. I want to focus on the fact that players are getting persecuted for exceptionally trivial things, such as socks being worn incorrectly. I'm sure some of us have worked for businesses or at places where your attire or how you wear your attire can come under criticism or condemnation from your employer. I doubt any of us have been fined 1.3%* of our yearly salary, with the option to make that 2.6% of our yearly salary if we commit the offense a second time, for how we wear our clothes.

It is with that I present for your viewing pleasure the NFL's uniform policy document.

There is a lot to digest here. Let's start with the socks. The NFL's rule on socks reads as follows:

"The stockings worn by players must be white from the top of the shoe to mid-calf and an approved team color from mid-calf to the bottom of the pant leg, which is pulled down below the knee."

That seems like a neat description of what should be done. In order to better illustrate their point, the NFL decided to give us a big book of pictures of uniform violations for each of its 32 teams. Here is the Texans’ page from this book:

THAT'S A LOT OF WAYS TO GET FINED FOR NOT WEARING YOUR SOCKS CORRECTLY.

It's at this point I feel it's worth noting that the NFL's uniform policy is in the region of 4,000 words long, whereas Major League Baseball’s is only about 400 words. To put that in context, the NFL goes into the same depth about what shoes to wear and how to wear them that the MLB does with its entire uniform. You have to wonder if this is just pedanticism or if the NFL has lost touch with reality. Their reasoning for all of this just seems a bit foggy as well. Take the opening paragraph from the NFL’s uniform policy above:

NFL players are required to dress to the highest levels of professionalism. A player’s appearance on the field conveys a message regarding the image of the League and directly affects the League’s reputation and success.

I want to know who wrote this and thought, ''Yes, this seems like a good mission statement. Now to go and painstakingly outline how players should wear their socks, lest they disgrace their NFL forefathers with the shoddiness of their foot attire." I'm bringing up socks here simply for the reason that it's both funny and infuriating, considering how silly it seems to take money away from someone for how they wear their socks in the name of conveying a positive image. The tragic honesty of the NFL's lack of self awareness really comes into view when you take cases like DeAngelo Williams’.

During last season, the NFL fined Williams a little under $6000 in accordance with the ''No Personal Messages'' part of its uniform policy. Williams had taken to the field with a message on his eye black. The message read ''Find the cure." Williams had recently lost his mother to breast cancer and was showing his support for breast cancer victims with that message. It should be mentioned that the NFL has a dedicated Breast Cancer Awareness Month where various pink items adorned with images of pink ribbons are worn by players and sold, with some (but not all) of the profits from the sales going to the American Cancer Society. This is a cause which the NFL has been involved with since 2009, with the NFL stating that:

The NFL’s work has raised nearly $15 million for the American Cancer Society.

Williams also requested that the NFL allow him to wear pink gear all season long to pay tribute to his mother through raising awareness about a cause with which the NFL is actively and proudly involved. The NFL's response to this request? They denied it. At what point does a player showing support for a league-supported cause and the loss of his parent become something that conveys a negative message about the league? If anything, it's the league’s weird and callous treatment of its players that conveys a negative image.

To summarize: The NFL fined Williams for supporting a cause which the NFL gladly throws out its precious uniform guidelines for an entire month in order to accommodate. That’s similar to the case of Cam Heyward, who sported eye black with a message honoring his father (a former NFL player himself), who died of cancer. The NFL saw fit to fine Heyward for that.

In all seriousness, who looks upon these charitable and emotional actions and honestly thinks that punishing these actions is an appropriate response? Who sees a player with the message ''Find a cure for cancer'' written across his face and reacts in a manner similar to Helen Lovejoy screaming, ''WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE LEAGUES IMAGE?!?''. The NFL has this weird complex where even if actions are done with good intentions or without any ill intentions, the actions must conform to this bizarrely precise uniform code. The league refuses to believe that there is any other way of conveying the image the league wants in a way that doesn't make every player look like the cover model for Dad's Fashion Monthly (e.g., an "I'm looking at you fine for not tucking in your shirt").

My hope is that sometime in the future, when the NFL has to deal with another DeAngelo Williams type case, it'll take a good, hard look at itself. Stop being a bunch of misanthropes. Stop caring about such ludicrous details. Then maybe the NFL can finally stop conveying the message that it's run by a bunch of sock-obsessed weirdos and start conveying a message that actually makes sense.

*1.3 % denotes the percentage value of the fine in relation to Corey Moore’s yearly salary, with the 2.6 % denoting an increase in fines for a repeat offense.

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