Has the NFL finally decided to stop bullying Marshawn Lynch?

The Seahawks’ victory in last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game proved costly after the NFL levied penalties against several members of the winning team. The fine that has attracted the most attention was awarded to Marshawn Lynch for “excessive celebration (inappropriate gesture) against Green Bay (GB)” (which was later discovered to have been excessively celebrated by the NFL itself).

That penalty was handed down after the NFL warned Marshawn that if he wore non-regulation cleats on the field he would be sent back to the locker room, and that if he repeated his obscene gesture in the Super Bowl the Seahawks would be handed a 15 yard penalty. All this to say nothing of his repeated fines for failing to cooperate with the media, plus the looming threats of an additional $250,000 hit for continued uncooperative behavior this coming week and for wearing his own goddamn hat.

The league’s persecution of Beast Mode has gotten so outrageous that several fans launched a petition asking the NFL to stop ‘bullying’ Marshawn Lynch. And it seems the league decided to listen. That claim might sound farfetched, but consider that two other Seahawks received the following fines this week — and that Marshawn Lynch didn’t:

Chris Matthews was fined for the same “excessive celebration” violation as was Marshawn. However, it very quickly emerged that Matthews did not actually commit the alleged offense: footage from the game very clearly shows that his hand was nether-adjacent only because Marshawn Lynch was shaking it. Nevertheless, if the league were serious about persecuting Beast Mode, it would rescind Matthews’ fine and reassign it on grounds of “inducing excessive celebration (inappropriate gesture) by Chris Matthews (CM)”.

Why has it yet to do so? I can only speculate. Perhaps the NFL was just thrilled to have prompted a public response of any kind from Marshawn — who tweeted, “I feel embarrassed to work for a particular organization that fined a teammate of mine for shaking my hand after a touchdown” — or maybe it’s simply decided to go easy on him for once.

The latter conclusion is reinforced by the NFL’s decision not to assign Lynch another fine following his TD run. Remember, Jermaine Kearse was fined for throwing his football into the stands after he scored the game-winning touchdown. So why hasn’t the league fined Beast Mode for delivering his own TD football into the stands?

What might be behind the NFL’s seemingly-abrupt shift in attitude? Perhaps it recognized that its looming failure to penalize the Patriots for #deflategate will appear incongruously lax compared to the hammer it keeps dropping on Lynch. Or maybe Roger Goodell is just trying to get himself invited to Marshawn Lynch’s house.

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