Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/4/12
Feel good and not so feel good news out of Packer training camp.

On July 31 the Packers teamed up with police and community agencies to give away 500 bike helmets to kids. http://wearegreenbay.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=145572

And it was announced that Linebacker Erik Walden is suspended without pay for one game for violating the personal conduct policy after reaching a deferred judgment agreement in his domestic disorderly case from Thanksgiving.   http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d82af432b/article/erik-walden-of-green-bay-packers-suspended-for-season-opener

The suspension struck me as interesting because, although most of football nation will hardly note a one game suspension, it shows how football players are treated differently. For good reason, one could argue, our youth emulate them and we demand their handlers, the league, do something when they misbehave in addition to legal sanction. We demand extra-legal punishment.

Understand, how many of us in Football Nation know someone or know someone who knows someone who had a domestic situation involve the cops and get the deferred judgment deal? Okay, how many of those people, when the legal system was done with them, had their employers say you are now suspended for three weeks so we can withhold one-sixteenth of your annual salary for violating the personal conduct policy?

The comparison highlights how differently we view professionals in the most popular American televised sport. Suspensions and bike helmets illustrate how it becomes a shared cultural institution through which we communicate values, an instrument of social policy. How do we reinforce a socially positive behavior, safer bicycling? Give away helmets at our cultural temple, shrine, and altar, Lambeau Field. How do we discourage a socially negative behavior, domestic violence? Sanction (extra-legally) one of the chosen few, a member of the NFLPA, try to make an example of him.

Are these means of communication effective? Is the NFL popular enough to engineer social policy?

Maybe, but in any event, seeing pro football as a shared cultural institution through which values are communicated is either pure sewer rat craziness, hyperbolic bourgeois-ese or, perhaps, a bit uncomfortably close to the truth. 

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