This past Sunday Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick was caught, on camera, flipping the bird on both hands to fans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Vick has since apologized for his actions, but the apology mimics what every athlete before him has said when performing the act. Frustration, losing his cool and being upset with how the team played were all listed as reasons for his inappropriate actions. Vick has also been fined $10,000 by the National Football League (NFL), which is a hefty fine in terms of what the league deals out on a consistent basis.
The bird has come a long way in American culture since Nelson Rockefeller was seen giving hecklers the finger at the 1976 Republican National Convention. In fact, even with its automatic withdrawal from their wallets, athletes seem to have embraced using their middle finger to share their disgruntled and frustrated feelings.
Due to the high visibility of the modern athlete, NBA players seem to have the most scrutiny when using the finger to flip off an individual, mostly due to the intimacy experienced by the fans and players at NBA games. Allen Iverson, already under close scrutiny was fined $10,000 after flipping off the crowd on November 29th, 2003. Bonzi Wells was also fined that same year when he played for the Portland Trailblazers. Ron Artest, most notable for his participation in the ‘malice at the palace’ during a game against the Detroit Pistons has also been fined for flipping off the crowd. Center Brad Miller has also managed to take the $10,000 hit when he flipped off fans.
In the NFL, controversial wide out Keyshawn Johnson has also been seen giving the finger when he was a member of the New York Jets. While the occasions of players flipping off the bird varies from sport to sport, it remains a year-round accessory to professional sports in general, which begs the question: Are the athletes truly sorry for flipping off fans, referees or anyone else?
The most obvious answer would be no, they continue to do it and don’t seem to learn the lesson when others are fined for doing it. Though much more harmful things have been done by athletes, this doesn’t excuse the type of behavior they choose to display. When most of the athletes being fined these heavy amounts are actually the stars of their respective leads, they owe it to their fans, especially of the younger generation, to learn to control their emotions. In most cases, one would think that if they’re earning millions for playing a game, they should be able to control themselves.
Sadly, even when the athletes do apologize, it is painstakingly obvious as to whether or not they are being contrite. When an athlete has clearly been coached in what to say or a PR rep releases a statement, the fact remains that these fines do little to hurt the average player that is being fined and for the better part, can be paid without so much as the blink of an eye.