Michael Sam Criticism Earned an NFL Player a Suspension. Telling Zimmerman Jurors to ‘Kill Themselves’? Nothing

When Michael Sam celebrated his selection in the NFL draft by kissing his boyfriend on national television, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones wasn’t pleased, tweeting “OMG” and “Horrible.”

He quickly deleted the tweets and apologized, but the brief comments earned Jones an undisclosed fine and a suspension from the team’s activities until “he undergoes and completes education training.”

The Miami Dolphins, which handed down the punishments, are free to act as they see fit in response to Jones’s tweets, particularly after alleged bullying episodes last season resulted in a player’s quitting the team. But the punishment Jones got is, interestingly, much harsher than other NFL players got when they tweeted arguably more inappropriate things — even going so far as to wish death upon a jury.

In the moments after George Zimmerman’s acquittal, wide receivers Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcon and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants expressed hope that the jurors and Zimmerman, respectively, would die.

“All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid,” White tweeted. “Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up with him,” Cruz said in turn.

White and Cruz both deleted their tweets and issued apologies for their comments the next day — but it appears neither player was punished for the messages.

In the coming months, and likely years, the NFL will be faced with incidents similar to Jones’s reaction to Sam, especially as other gay players may enter the league. The appropriate response to Jones’s tweets was up to the Dolphins’ judgment, but it seems that NFL teams have a selective attitude toward what potentially offensive messages deserve punishment.