The NFL usually suspends players. Sometimes, it suspends employees of the NFL’s in-house media conglomerate. Recently, NFL Network suspended its top information gatherer/provider/reciter.
Ian Rapoport issued a statement to PFT on Friday night explaining that he’ll be off the air until October 22 because “I posted something to my social channels without clearance from NFL Network, which went against its guidelines.”
The statement, tweeted shortly thereafter by Rapoport, created plenty of questions and speculation regarding the contents of the post. The truth is much more innocuous, and it makes the league seem unreasonable for its decision to suspend Rapoport for two weeks, presumably without pay.
Per multiple reports, which PFT has confirmed, Rapoport posted a commercial for Manscaped, a device intended to groom the male groin, on Instagram. Rapoport’s colleague, Jane Slater, then posted it on Twitter. Within a day, the video had disappeared; it quickly became clear that the deletion related to the league’s reaction.
The content of the ad, delivered from Rapoport’s usual in-home broadcast position for NFL Network, contained the usual puns and campy content that makes indirect and direct reference to the purpose of the product. But the league can’t credibly wag a finger at the association; the 49ers announced in June that Manscaped had become the “Below The Waist Grooming Partner” of the 49ers.
Logic suggests that there was an issue with Rapoport doing a deal directly with Manscaped without receiving all appropriate clearances and permissions from the league.
Given those facts, a two-week suspension seems like an overreaction. Such discipline by NFL Network previously had been reserved for much stronger actual or alleged violations, like allegations of sexual harassment that resulted in Heath Evans, Marshall Faulk, and Ike Taylor being suspended and ultimately leaving the network in 2017.
That same year, Michael Irvin faced allegations of rape. Although the criminal charges were dropped and no civil suit was ever filed, the league never took any action against Irvin pursuant to the kind of independent investigation the league routinely performs when players face such accusations. (It’s still not clear that the league even conducted an independent investigation.)
In 2015, Warren Sapp’s seven-year run at NFLN ended after he was arrested for alleged solicitation and assault of a prostitute. In 2016, Brian Baldinger received a six-month suspension for arguing that the Eagles should try to “hurt” Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and should “put a little bounty” on him.
Rapoport’s conduct, in contrast, seems tamer than a slightly overgrown thicket of human hair. While he may have violated business rules relating to when and how on-air talent can cut their own deals, it seems that there could be a remedy short of whacking him for two weeks.