To Be (Fashionable) or Not To Be

In John Stuart Mill’s work, On Liberty, specifically the chapter “Of Individuality, As One of the Elements of Well-Being” he talks about how being an individual is a good thing as it leads to change and new thoughts that would not usually have been come across had everyone just been focused on conforming to what society does. However, while individuality is mostly positive, excessive amounts of individuality can lead to negative effects. Also, Mill writes about how due to this individuality, people are allowed to make their own decisions on everything they do as long as it does not carry any harm to other people. The only thing that other people can do is express their opinions, but the people and the law cannot restrict someone from going against what they personally believe is right, as long as there are no repercussions for other people.

Redskins Quarterback, Robert Griffin III, wearing the Adidas brand shirt, “Operation Patience,” which he was later fined for.

As it happens to be in all pro sports these days, there are name brands that sponsor each league in order to promote their brand; thus making all of the players responsible for endorsing the brands during the games, and wearing everything that has the specific brand name on it. We come across an interesting point here as the NFL specifically has come under much scrutiny for its over-aggressive fines on players who violate dress code. The NFL is a Nike brand, so when Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III, came out for team warm ups in an Adidas brand shirt, he was automatically fined 10,000 dollars. This is not his first infraction either as he has been fined two other times for wearing “unauthorized apparel.” Another time, he wore a shirt with a religious saying on it, which the NFL made him turn inside out during his postgame press conference. The NFL promptly fined him and then received backlash from many religious organizations, criticizing the NFL’s actions. In another case, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, was fined for wearing Beats by Dre headphones around his neck during a press conference. Like always, he was fined 10,000 dollars as well.

While these players are technically breaking the rules, they are not harming anybody. They are simply displaying their individuality, which Mill states is very important to keep in order to innovate society and to keep from a monotonous, stagnant culture. I do understand why the NFL has to take action against the players due to their business partnership with Nike, however what the players wear before and after the games is their own business, and an expression of individuality, which they should be able to express according to Mill. During the game they obviously need to wear the proper uniform and gear because that is the televised part where consumers of the products actually see the gear, but the NFL is not following the rules that Mill says is necessary to keep new ideas flowing.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook strolling into the game displaying some interesting fashion like he always does.

NBA players throughout the years have been seen wearing fashionably questionable outfits as they come in and out of their respective stadiums, but the NBA does not fine them because of this. While it is only a small part of the NFL that seems to be flawed, these 10,000 dollar fines that are being handed out are the same as penalties that deal with violations dealing with safety during the game such as, players kicking, hitting, grabbing the facemask, and more. Maybe instead of fining for dress code and individuality, the NFL should focus on making the game safer, without having to change the game itself, but that is a different conversation for a different time.