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Fines for on-field misconduct totaled $2.9 million in 2010

James Harrison, Mohamed Massaquoi

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2010, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (92) hits Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (11) during a football game in Pittsburgh. Harrison was fined $75,000 for the hit. Many NFL players believe they should have more of a voice in the handing out of fines and suspensions for illegal hits. “You’ve got to make sure that these things are fair, that they’re measurable, that you can judge them, that it’s not just one person’s opinion,” said New England Patriots tackle Matt Light, the team’s player representative. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)


One of the major stories of this preseason has been the same as one of the major stories of the last regular season: The NFL is cracking down on illegal hits, and fining players who break the rules. But while fines make the headlines every week of the season, the total amount of the fines -- and where the money goes -- isn’t as well understood.

So we asked some questions to some NFL sources, who told PFT that in 2010, the net contribution to charity from on-field fines was $2.9 million. On average, that means the typical NFL game results in about $10,000 in fines.

When a player is fined for on-field misconduct, that money goes to charities and programs for retired players. Money is distributed by NFL Charities to the NFL Player Care Foundation and the NFLPA’s Players Assistance Trust, as well as the Brian Piccolo Memorial Fund and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Care Center.

On average, fine money has been about $3 million a year for the last four years. So while it may have seemed like 2010 featured more fines than ever before, that’s not the case. What was really different last year is the attention that was paid to a few hefty fines, especially the $75,000 fine leveled at James Harrison for a hit on Mohamed Massaquoi.

We started digging into the total dollar amounts of on-field fines after seeing a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune saying fines in 2010 totaled $2.12 million. That figure is incorrect, a league source tells us.

Also incorrect is the Union-Tribune‘s report that fines increased nearly tenfold since 2001, when players were fined a total of $265,000. In reality, the source says, on-field fines in 2001 netted slightly less than $2 million. Considering that player compensation and the salary cap have nearly doubled in the last decade, player fines actually represent a smaller percentage of player pay now than 10 years ago.

It’s not clear how the Union-Tribune compiled its numbers, but they match the numbers available at, which has a list of hundreds of NFL fines from the last decade. The Union-Tribune appears to have taken the numbers without noticing that the site never claims that its numbers are comprehensive. We contacted the Union-Tribune to inquire about their numbers and did not get a reply.

In any event, the $2.9 million in fines from 2010 represents a significant donation to some worthy charities. Which probably doesn’t cheer up James Harrison.