Signing a contract in any professional sports league is a huge milestone in an athlete's life, and is usually accompanied by a large paycheck. Fans often witness players living luxurious lifestyles through their social media accounts, but don't always see where else their big bucks go toward.
Upon placing the pen down, players agree to abide by the rules and regulations set in place by the committee of each league. Although rules vary by each sport, defying any game's principles will result in the same manner – hefty fines. Over the years, critics have begun to question whether athletes have loosened their behavior or if the leagues' rules have tightened. No matter the case, even the most skilled athletes are paying for their penalties.
Collecting data from Spotrac.com, we scraped the total amount of player fines paid by athletes in the NBA, NFL, and NHL. Read on to see which players, teams, and positions are breaking the bank by breaking the rules.
The National Basketball Association has a strict set of rules in place for athletes in the Eastern and Western Conferences. During the 2015-2016 season, the NBA smacked a whopping 815 players with fines – amounting to a generous $2,146,000.
Now, you may be asking yourself: What does the league do with all the money that is plucked from players' paychecks? According to Dan Wasserman, spokesperson for the National Basketball Players association, the NBA and NBPA equally split the collected fines and donate them to the respective charities of their choice. The association has been questioned about the flow of money since it doesn't publicize which charities receive the funds.
DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins), center for the Sacramento Kings, leads not only his team but also the league in dishing out the most money toward player fines. Most of Boogie's fines stem from technical fouls, but the center has faced up to $806,956 due to 10-game suspensions since the 2012 season. Fan favorites such as Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) and Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) are mostly punished for technical fouls committed during games played – the main source for all player fines. Among the players penalized, George Hill (@George_Hill3), newly acquired point guard for the Utah Jazz, has racked up the second to least amount of fines – with only $28,000 paid out throughout his eight-season career.
Play Together, Pay Together
Teamwork makes the dream work, but that may not always be the case financially. Organizations in the NBA spend millions of dollars a year signing players to their teams. The money supposedly goes to a moral cause but it's also intended to be invested in the skills of their players.
The Sacramento Kings seem to rule two kingdoms: Northern California and fines paid out to the league. Collectively, the Kings have been cited with $1,714,287 in fines for misconduct on and off the court. Rounding out the top five highest-fined teams are the 2013 NBA Finals contenders – the Indiana Pacers at $1,036,478. Maybe these organizations should take after teams such as the Utah Jazz, who have dished out the least money ($107,000) toward fines and penalties.
Nothing but Checks
All positions in the NBA seem to pay an almost-equal average amount in fines per season. Research and common knowledge of the game show that technical fouls are the primary reasons for fines throughout the league.
Among the five positions played on the court – centers appear to reign supreme in paying the highest average amount ($2,941 per fine). The position is likely prone to fouls due to the amount of time they work around the basket. Small forwards typically have an aggressive approach when making their way to the basket – surprisingly, they round out the bottom two by paying an average of $2,256 per fine. Shooting the longest shots and paying the smallest average fines ($2,135) are shooting guards – it looks like their precise ball-handling skills pay off in more areas than just the scoreboard!
Paying It Up
Basketball players earn the highest salaries between their contracts with the league and various endorsements. What may seem like a boatload of money to the average consumer is chump change in the eyes of NBA athletes.
Among all current players in the NBA, P.J. Tucker – small forward for the Phoenix Suns – has paid the highest percentage of his earnings to fines. Throughout his five seasons in the league, Tucker has forfeited 1.91 percent of his $2.6 million average yearly salary. Trailing behind him is none other than Boogie himself – DeMarcus Cousins (1.66 percent). These ballers may want to think twice about their actions next time they're tempted to disobey the rules.
Down, Set, Pay Up!
Just like other major sports leagues in North America, the NFL has established an on-field code of conduct that must be followed by all players, teams, coaches, and staff members.
Unlike the NBA, the NFL publicizes where the money collected from player fines is directed to – programs supporting former players. The league (NFL) and the Players Association have agreed that all fines will go through the NFL Foundation and be channeled into the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust.
Dion Jordan (@dionj95), defensive end for the Miami Dolphins, has made a name for himself in the league one way or another. Jordan is currently the highest-fined player in the NFL due to substance abuse. Violating the NFL's substance abuse policy comes at a large price – Jordan was suspended for 22 games and fined $6,920,634. An additional $7,875 penalty for an excessive face mask call lands Jordan at the top of our list.
Win Together, Lose Money Together
Teams in the NFL spend far less than that of their counterparts in the NBA, but organizations were still fined well over the million-dollar mark.
It's no surprise that the Miami Dolphins have forfeited the most in fines, considering the highest-penalized athlete in the league plays for them: Dion Jordan. Playing in paradise must be tough after dishing out $8,880,091 for failing to uphold conduct within the league. Trailing behind the Fins, the Oakland Raiders are emptying their pockets to the high-priced tune of $6,884,276. These teams should take some tips from the 2016 Super Bowl runner-up – the Carolina Panthers – who were fined a petite $459,520 for their wrongdoings.
When the results are broken down by positions on the field, it is safe to say that no one is immune to penalties. A team's offense is responsible for the average highest- and lowest-charged fines among all positions on the field.
Unnecessary roughness is one of the most common reasons for fines among other infractions, such as facemasks or unsportsmanlike conduct. Considering that the job of a right tackle is to physically keep defensive players away from the quarterback or running back – roughness is bound to occur. Right tackles pay, on average, $180,780 per fine every time they cross the line (not literally). Defensive ends follow suit with their rough play style by paying an average of $124,305 for their penalties.
On the offensive line, the center has two primary roles: to snap the ball and to carry out blocking assignments. Paying the least average amount of money per fine ($22,152), centers can also allocate the greatest portion of their paycheck to their bank accounts.
Pays to Play
An NFL contract is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for players dedicated to the gridiron. For some, it may be a difficult task enduring the reality shift with their newfound wealth. Unfortunately, this was the case for the wide receiver Martavis Bryant (@ThaBestUNO) and running back Trey Watts (@trey_the_truth) who have both forfeited over half of their salaries due to substance abuse.
Paying for Checks
Out of the three American leagues analyzed, the NHL is credited for giving out the least fines overall. Now, of course, other factors come into play here – fewer penalties are called due to the aggressive nature of the sport. Although many players in the league have been fined, no one has yet to reach the million-dollar mark.
The fund's mission is set in stone: to assist former players and their families who are suffering financially. Players aren't the only ones susceptible to fines; coaches, staff members, and organizations may be fined if they fail to uphold proper conduct.
Leading the league with the most fines is the highly praised Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) – left wing for the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin is known for scoring high and hitting hard. The Russian-born skater's highest fine came in 2010 after boarding Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. Ovie was slammed with a two-game suspension accompanied with a $232,645 fine. Apparently, penalties don't interfere with his gameplay too much – along with goaltender Braden Holtby, the duo led the Caps to the finish with the most points in the entire league during the 2015-2016 season.
All in This Together
Compared with the teams in the NBA and NFL – NHL organizations finds their teams paying far less than their neighboring sports.
Hailing from outside the United States – the Toronto Maple Leafs are coughing up the most cash to the league in fines. Perhaps the strong Canadian roots and die-hard fans rile up the players and coaching staff, but forfeiting $801,854 for breaking the rules must hit home hard. The Leafs should take some tips from their southern opponents in North Carolina – the Carolina Hurricanes, who paid the least team fines compared with all sports organizations in the NBA, NFL, and NHL at a mere $21,074!
Penalty Power Play
The rules of hockey call for a team to have only six active players on the ice at any given point of gameplay. On average, left wings forfeit the most cash per fine at $47,673. The top reason why? Technical fouls, a common occurrence for this aggressive position. The left wing stands out among the other spots on the ice due to Ovechkin cranking up his personal number of fines paid.
Pay the Piper
NHL athletes tend to hang onto their paychecks. No player pays more than four percent of their salary towards fines except one – Jonathan Drouin (@jodrouin27). Drouin, left wing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, was selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. Unfortunately, Drouin was suspended indefinitely during the 2016 season for failing to report to the AHL – costing the young prospect a whopping $225,945 (12.21 percent) from his earnings. The Bolts ended up lifting Drouin's suspension, sending him back to the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) for practice.
We collected data from Spotrac.com for all players in the NHL, NFL, and NBA for their cash earnings, fines and suspensions, position and team information, and reasons for their fines through 2016. Fines were aggregated over the entire course of each player's career.
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