The NFL's COVID-19 saga continues. Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was fined $14,650 for not wearing a mask this week. The wide receiver took to Twitter to show the notice the NFL served him. While $14,650 is enough to bankrupt most in the United States, is it enough of a punishment to elicit some change in NFL stars?
Isaiah McKenzie fined, but Covid-19 punishments may not be harsh enough
The notice the NFL gave to McKenzie outlined that he was seen without a mask twice. Essentially, he was fined about $7,000 per occurrence. While this would be a serious punishment for most outside the NFL world, McKenzie is taking the punishment in his stride.
On his Twitter account, McKenzie wrote, "They got me! @NFL you win!" The reaction to the punishment was pretty tongue-in-cheek and does not quite portray someone willing to change his behavior.
If the NFL wants to see its players take the mask mandate seriously, it needs to up the ante. Isaiah McKenzie is expected to make $1.1275 million in 2021. Even as a player with a low-end salary, McKenzie's punishment is less than a slap on the wrist. It essentially amounts to a speeding ticket.
Some may change their behavior after a speeding ticket, but others see it as a fee. It is unclear how McKenzie feels about the nature of the fine, but it seems clear that it's not creating much pressure for substantial change.
This is a wide receiver on the bottom end of the salary leaderboard. If a $14,650 fine won't change his behavior, it won't force top-end earners to give the rule a second thought. For instance, according to Spotrac, DeAndre Hopkins is expected to make almost $14 million in 2021. A $14,650 fine is only 0.104% of his income for 2021.
In other words, if Hopkins wanted to, he could probably go without a mask whenever he wants at this rate. But if the NFL were to multiply the fine by a factor of ten, now that would be something. For McKenzie, a $146,500 fine would pinch, as it would take over ten percent of his yearly income.
That said, a wide receiver like Hopkins would still be relatively unaffected. Therefore, it would make sense for the NFL to fine players a percentage of their income if they are serious about the mandate. A slap on the wrist isn't a sustainable way to effect change.