You know the story. Geno Smith, QB for the NY Jets, gets into an argument with a teammate in the locker room who proceeds to deck him with a single punch. Broke his jaw. Out 6-8 weeks.
The backstory is the teammate who threw the punch, linebacker IK Enemkpali, had organized a charity event over the summer that Geno Smith had agreed to attend. Enemkpali bought plane tickets and secured lodging for Geno as part of the deal. At the last minute, Geno told Enemkpali that he would not be able to attend, but agreed to reimburse him for his out of pocket expense totalling $600.
The story should have ended there - but apparently Geno did not follow through on the payment. So, when training camp started Enemkpali tried to collect. Geno still did not pay up and this led to the confrontation in the locker room. According to published reports here, here and here not only did Geno not apologize for being late with the payment he agreed to, be he was verbally insulting, demeaning and finger pointing in the exchange and goaded Enemkpali with the phrase "You're not going to do anything about it."
Now, don't get me wrong. I think every workplace should be free from the threat of violence, even an NFL locker room. Geno didn't "deserve" to get punched. But he also should never have let it get to this point.
What should he have done differently? Well, let's think about what Joe Namath would have done in the same situation. The truth on any NFL team is the QB is a team leader and one of the highest paid players on the team. They make millions of dollars a year and we are talking about a $600 debt. This is walking around money for these guys. Even if Namath had missed the event and forgotten to pay the debt, when Enemkpali brought it up in training camp I would imagine that Namath would reach into his locker, grab his walking around money and peel off 6 crisp $100 bills and hand it to Enemkpali with an apology for the delay. Incident over. Story finished.
This is how an NFL QB operates. He is a leader. He admits mistakes. He is flush with cash and would never let a $600 debt fester a relationship with a teammate. Instead, Geno took the Prima Donna approach, assuming he was untouchable and made a backup teammate feel that he was beneath him.
Being an NFL QB is more than just being able to throw a football on a tight spiral. It is about leadership, character and respect. This incident shows me that Geno does not understand any of that.