That'll Cost You: NFL Fines Through the Years
In the wake of the NFL’s crackdown on concussions and the increasing number of player fines issued for helmet-to-helmet hits, here’s a look at 15 other offenses, ranging from the serious to the absurd, that have drawn fines over the years.
In 1925, the NFL fined the Milwaukee Badgers $500 and ordered owner Ambrose L. McGurk to sell the team within 90 days after the Badgers allowed four high school boys to play in a game against the Chicago Cardinals. The fine crippled the franchise, which folded in 1926.
Wes Welker’s Snow Angel
And you wonder why they call it the No Fun League. Wes Welker made the world’s most expensive snow angel after scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals at snowy Gillette Field in 2008. An NFL rule prohibits players from going to the ground as part of touchdown celebrations, so Welker was fined $10,000. "It was a spur-of-the-moment deal, and you can be sure that it won't happen again," Welker told the Boston Globe.
Let Them Score
In 1984, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay was fined $10,000 for his unsportsmanlike actions during the final game of the regular season.
With the Bucs leading the Jets 41-14 in the fourth quarter, McKay called for an onside kick in an attempt to get the ball back and give running back James Wilder a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record for combined rushing and receiving yards. When New York recovered, McKay ordered his defense to let the Jets score. New York’s players were outraged and the Jets attempted an onside kick of their own in hopes of denying Wilder a shot at the record. Tampa Bay recovered, but Wilder was tackled by Mark Gastineau on the game’s final play, 16 yards shy of Dickerson’s mark. McKay, who resigned after the season, was fined $10,000. The Jets earned their revenge in the Meadowlands the following season, demolishing the Bucs 62-28.
Penalty for Losing
Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi reportedly fined players $100 for every day that they held out to help finance an end-of-season team party, but that was nothing compared to what one of his Packer predecessors did. In 1948, Green Bay head coach Curly Lambeau fined his team one-half of one game’s salary for a poor showing in a 17-7 loss to Chicago that dropped the Packers to 2-2. “One of the big reasons this situation exists is that the boys are getting good salaries and they’re content,” Lambeau said. “For that reason there’s got to be a penalty for losing.”
Aloha Means Early Goodbye
In 1993, Troy Aikman was fined $10,000 for leaving the Pro Bowl in Hawaii after the third quarter. Aikman said he needed to be in Dallas for a charity meeting the next morning.
Jim McMahon Uses His Head
In 1985, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon $5,000 for wearing an Adidas headband in a playoff game against the Giants. McMahon wore the headband throughout the regular season, but the league had informed him that they would start enforcing the rule that prohibited players from promoting brands that weren’t sponsors of the NFL during the playoffs. In the NFC Championship game the following week, McMahon wore a headband that read, “Rozelle.” The commissioner reportedly laughed when he saw it. McMahon and the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl.
Brian Urlacher’s Expensive Hat
McMahon’s fine was a drop in the bucket compared to the fine levied against another Chicago Bears star, linebacker Brian Urlacher, at Super Bowl Media Day in 2007. Urlacher was fined $100,000 for wearing a hat with the Vitamin Water logo. Gatorade, of course, is the NFL’s official sports drink sponsor. The fine was especially hefty because of when and where the hat was worn. League officials said the same violation would have carried a $50,000 fine at the Pro Bowl and a $10,000 fine during the regular season. According to UniformViolation.com, an excellent database of uniform-related fines, Urlacher declined Vitamin Water’s offer to pay the fine. The hat was later sold on eBay for $15,000.
Ryan Clark Pays to Honor Sean Taylor
Of the many uniform-related fines the league has levied, this was one of the cruelest. One year after the murder of his former Washington Redskins teammate and friend Sean Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was fined $5,000 for wearing eye black with Taylor’s No. 21 etched into it.
“I was just being me,” Chad Ochocinco said after he flashed a dollar at an official during a replay review last season. “I wasn’t going to do it for real.” And the NFL was just being the NFL when it fined the Bengals receiver $20,000 for his attempt at humor. The league prohibits the use of objects that are not part of the uniform and reportedly didn’t appreciate Ochocinco referring to his act as a bribe in the postgame press conference. In the interest of protecting the integrity of the league, the NFL has long taken gambling seriously. Rozelle fined and suspended two of the league’s best players, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, for betting on games in 1963.
Earlier this season, it was revealed that the New York Jets have started fining quarterback Mark Sanchez for poor body language in practice. “Today, there was a play in practice when he screwed something up,” New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the Newark Star-Ledger. “He kind of looked like it was someone else’s fault. That’s a fine.” Veteran quarterback Mark Brunell collects Sanchez’s good-natured fines.
Patriots Fined for Sexual Harassment
In 1990, the New England Patriots and three of the team’s players were fined for their role in an alleged sexual harassment incident involving Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson. According to reports, Patriots tight end Zeke Mowatt “smiled and purposely displayed himself to Olson in a suggestive way.” Mowatt was fined $12,500 and the team was fined $25,000 to pay for an NFL instructional course on dealing with the media. Olson filed a lawsuit against the Patriots, which was settled in 1992. She moved to Australia to get away from the threats and harassing phone calls that came in the aftermath of the incident before returning to the United States in 1998 and taking a position with the New York Daily News.
Wyche Docked for Banning Female Reporters
A few weeks after Olson made her allegations, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Sam Wyche banned a female reporter from entering the locker room after a loss. Wyche attempted to defend the decision by explaining that “our guys don’t want a woman to walk into a situation like that.” The league wasn’t having it. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue levied a $30,000 fine, which was the largest ever assessed an NFL coach. Tagliabue also denied Wyche’s proposed compromise to open the locker room to all reporters 20 minutes after the game ended and then closing it for a period to allow players time to change.
Don’t Be Late
On September 26, 1976, the Minnesota Vikings were fined for arriving late to a game at Detroit’s Pontiac Silver Dome. According to the account of the incident in Black and Blue: A Smash-Mouth History of the NFL’s Roughest Division, the Vikings’ team bus encountered some smash-mouth traffic en route to the stadium, and a trip that should have taken 5 minutes took much longer. As a result, the game started 22 minutes after its scheduled start time. “[Vikings head coach Bud Grant] likes to arrive at the stadium one hour before game time,” a Vikings spokesman told reporters. “We always check with as many people as possible and with the bus company as to when we should leave the hotel. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and this has never happened before.”
Halas Breaks a Rule He Helped Create
?In 1930, NFL President Joe Carr fined George Halas and the Chicago Bears $1,000 for signing Joe Savoldi, a fullback who had been expelled from Notre Dame for being married. NFL bylaws prohibited teams from signing a player before his college class had graduated, a rule that was established shortly after Halas signed Illinois star running back Red Grange in 1925 while he was still in college.
Joe Namath Misses Curfew
Former Jets star quarterback Joe Namath was repeatedly fined for missing bed-checks. A New York Times story that mentioned one such fine during training camp in 1975 included comments from New York’s chief medical examiner about the effects of alcohol on player performance. Dr. Yong-myun Rho determined that athletes could remain impaired from drinking even 20 hours after the fact. "I would say to a football player, 'Don't drink too much.' I would say that not because of alcoholic breath but because there would be an impairment of skills."