The NFL likes to control everything–even if it’s not always good at it. The league has an image to protect, after all. That image is the brand it sells to advertisers–and it’s one of the most powerful, valuable brands in the world, despite recently being shaken by controversy. (If you’ve been under a rock, some of the players are routinely violent, others have lifelong brain damage, the commissioner may be a liar…) But the NFL didn’t get where it is by sitting down on the job. The NFL is an enforcer, just like its best players on the field.
So Colin Kaepernick showed up in a news conference wearing Beats by Dre headphones instead of the NFL-sanctioned Bose headphones. (Audiophiles, if not Apple, think he made a poor choice.) It’d all be laughable–the micromanagement–except that Kaepernick is a Beats spokesperson and he gets paid to promote the brand, even appearing in Beats commercials. He wasn’t making a mistake, or just not paying attention. He was doing his job, albeit his moonlighting job as an advertising billboard. So he was fined $10,000. A $10,000 fine? Dr. Dre and his Beats partner Jimmy Iovine–who sold their company to Apple for north of $3 billion–will have no trouble covering Kaeperernick’s fine. If the NFL is going to protect its brand–currently under assault–it has to mean business.