The NFL appears to be very, very concerned about a mostly-media-manufactured image problem (the common figure of athletes actually being arrested is 2.2%) among its athletes, and has taken a step that I’m not sure most of us were made aware of when Lord Roger Goodell’s regime started cracking down: they are now reviewing game tape for celebrations by players that might involve gang signs as hand gestures.
Oddly enough, the hiring of gang experts to go through tapes was not inspired by any particular athlete in its league, but the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce, who got fined $25K last year by David Stern for making what the NBA called “menacing gestures.”
Partly because of that episode, the NFL decided to make the identification of gang signs a point of emphasis this season, and has called on the resources of local and national authorities to learn more about gang culture.
“We were always suspicious that [gang-related hand signals] might be happening,” said Mike Pereira, the NFL’s vice president of officiating. “But the Paul Pierce thing is what brought it to light. When he was fined . . . that’s when we said we need to take a look at it and see if we need to be aware of it.”
NFL game officials will not be responsible for identifying gang signals but will alert league headquarters of anything unusual or suspicious they see. League executives declined to outline what action might be taken against offenders, but Pereira said, “it will be dealt with harshly. The commissioner is not going to stand for gang signals on the field.”
But how can you tell what the difference is between what could be perceived as a gang sign and what’s a signal? As Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Dennis Northcutt pointed out, there are many gangs, each with their own symbols, and people can have hand signs for anything and everything (not that it’s terribly common.)
A league’s image is everything, but there’s something to be said for waiting to fix a problem when it actually exists. I’m not sure this is actually one of the biggest things in terms of off-field matters that the NFL ought to worry about, despite the seemingly good intentions behind it.
Concerned about gang signs, NFL reviews tapes [Los Angeles Times]