Max Kruse started for Union Berlin against Schalke on Sunday, despite breaching the DFL's (German Football League) hygiene protocol. Failing to punish him has made a mockery of the rules writes DW's Janek Speight.
Max Kruse has never been far from controversy.
He's made headlines for a self-filmed nude video, leaving €75,000 in a taxi, and was banished from the German national team for a string of incidents.
But as long as his club is fine with his extracurricular activities, it shouldn't matter. His undoubted ability on the football field clearly outranked any perceived risks for Union Berlin.
On Thursday evening though, Kruse posted a video on social media of himself playing cards in a Berlin bar with strangers.
Nothing untoward at first sight, given bars in Berlin are allowed to be open until 11pm local time. It was however a seemingly obvious breach of the DFL's (German Football League) self-imposed hygiene protocol.
Three days later, he was named in Union Berlin's starting lineup against Schalke. No suspension, no fine, not even a talking to from the Bundesliga's organizers.
His actions, and the inaction of the DFL, make a mockery of their efforts to run the Bundesliga in a safe environment.
The league's hygiene protocol states that players should "stay in the house/apartment if possible" and that "contact with the neighborhood or the public" is prohibited.
Union Berlin's sporting director Oliver Ruhnert claimed Kruse "behaved correctly" according to the city of Berlin's coronavirus regulations.
"He acted as every normal citizen is allowed to act," Ruhnert said after Union's 1-1 draw with Schalke.
He also claimed that the club does "not want these actions, we think they are wrong".
Mixed messages indeed. Kruse acted inappropriately, but because he didn't break any law there's nothing to see.
It should not be up to Union to punish their own player, instead the DFL should have stepped in.
After all, Max Kruse is not a normal citizen in this context. He has been allowed special permission to play in a nationwide football tournament, at first when members of the public were still not even allowed to train with their amateur teams. He should therefore be held to special standards, which is why the DFL's hygiene protocol was drawn up.
The Bundesliga has been praised for the way it has managed a return to the playing field, setting a precedent for European football, but this failure to enforce its own rules has put that reputation to shame.
In other sporting leagues across the world, governing bodies have come down hard on breaches of league protocol.
Two coaches in the Australian Football League were fined a whopping $25,000 AUD (€15,000) for playing a tennis match.
Three NFL coaches were fined $100,000 (€85,000) each for not wearing masks during matches.
Earlier this season, Hertha Berlin's Salomon Kalou was suspended for posting a video which also showed a breach of league protocols.
Has the attitude towards COVID-19 changed so much in DFL offices across the last few months?
A whole lot of hot air
Letting Kruse off the hook brings into question whether the DFL has ignored other breaches from Bundesliga footballers or staff members, or whether they have the authority or motivation to deter future breaches.
What exactly is the point of a protocol if punishments aren't dished out for indiscretions? Future potential offenders certainly haven't received any deterrent, and Max Kruse himself has hardly been discouraged from "re-offending".
Of course Kruse acted inappropriately, and Union Berlin could have taken a moral stand, but ultimately this scandal rests on the DFL's shoulders.
At a timewhen Germany's COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, the DFL's refusal to enforce their own rules makes you wonder whether all their talk about creating a safe environment is just hot air.