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Is NFL fining fun, or restoring respect?

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Earlier this week the league confirmed that Joe Horn, the suddenly flashy receiver for the struggling New Orleans Saints, would be fined $30,000 for extreme hot-dogging in a game against the New York Giants Sunday.

After catching the second of his four touchdowns in that game, Horn, with the help of teammate return specialist Michael Lewis, retrieved a planted cell phone from under the goal post and called his family to celebrate. Lewis was slapped with a $5,000 fine for his role as celebratory sidekick.

Horn knew he was getting fined even before he pulled off the stunt but says he expected the league to dock him for about $15,000. His agent, Ralph Vitolo, says that if his client had known the steepness of the penalty he would have reconsidered.

Overblown post-touchdown celebrations are nothing new. Back in the day, you had Billy "White Shoes" Johnson (Houston Oilers) and his crazy legs dance; Ickey Woods Cincinnati Bengals) and his infamous "Ickey Shuffle"; Jamal Anderson (Atlanta Falcons) and his "Dirty Bird" dance; Mark Duper  (Miami Dolphins) and his endzone backflip; Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers) and his throat-slashing gesture; and don't forget Mark Gastineau (New York Jets) and his post-sack he-man jeers, which, in fact, kicked off the league's anti-taunting rule in 1984.

More recently, Terrell Owens was fined $10,000 when he took a Sharpie from his sock and autographed a ball after scoring a TD; a week or so later, he snatched the pompons from a cheerleader to glorify his score. This week, Cincinnati's Chad Johnson was fined $10,000 for grabbing a sign from against the wall and waving it over his head. The sign read: "Dear NFL, Please Don't Fine Me Again."

Some fans say they relish the big-money fines, saying athletes have gotten so egotistical and disrespectful that their antics border on the obscene. Such gestures make you want to cover your children's eyes, they say, because the example being set by these high-profile role models go against every principle of good sportsmanship.

Others say it's the fines that border on the obscene. They say that athletes, particularly Black athletes, talk big smack all day on the playground but shake hands and bump chests after the game. No hard feelings, no lingering resentment. Some even go as far as to say that such fines are racist, pointing out the almost-all-White sport of hockey, in which players pummel one another to a bloody pulp. A Black comedian said recently, "Want to end all fights in hockey? Let a few more brothers get into the league."

Dr. Harry Edwards, the Black University of California sports sociologist and longtime consultant to the 49ers, told Sports Illustrated recently, "These kids don't park their culture at the door when they come into an NFL locker room."