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That'll Cost You: NFL Fines Through the Years

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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.

Amateur Hour

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

© Robert E. Klein /Icon SMI/Corbis

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.

Ocho Bribo

“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.

Don’t Sulk

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."

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25 Things You Should Know About Tucson
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The west is still wild in Tucson. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Arizona’s second-largest city attracts artists, astronomers, outdoorsy types and at least one rare cat. Read on for more Tucson trivia.

1) Some of the earliest evidence of corn cultivation in North America comes from Pima County, Arizona, where Tucson is located. Archaeologists have recovered kernels estimated to be 4000 years old within 60 miles of the city.

2) Towering above the downtown area is an iconic mountain called Sentinel Peak. Look at it from a distance and you may notice that the base is darker than the summit. The native Tohono O’odham people called this landmark Ts-iuk-shan—which is a corruption of their word for “black base.” Spaniards later turned Ts-iuk-shan into Tucson.

3) On March 20, 1880, a passenger train rolled into Tucson for the first time. Mayor R.N. Leatherwood sent out telegrams to dignitaries to publicize the occasion, writing to Pope Leo XIII that the railroad now linked "this ancient and honorable pueblo" with the rest of the Christian world. Newspapers began calling Tucson “the A. and H. Pueblo,” which gradually shrunk to its current nickname, “the Old Pueblo.”

4) If you’re a stargazer, Tucson is one of the best spots in the U.S. for astronomy. In 1972, Pima County enacted a “dark sky” code to regulate the brightness and number of outdoor bulbs in an effort to help local observatories like one at Kitt Peak. Now Tucson suffers from far less light pollution than most cities do, allowing stars and planets to shine through the darkness.

5) Above Broadway Boulevard, you can walk through the belly of a giant metal snake. A covered bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, this serpentine structure is designed to look like a diamondback rattlesnake, whose gaping jaw and fangs form the entrance.

6) By day, it looks like a big plastic doughnut. But after sundown, the solar-powered Desert O sculpture lights up in an array of vibrant colors. The ring, owned by the city of Tucson, is 6 feet in diameter and uses LED lights to create a brilliant display with a different color combo for every night of the week.

7) In 1970, then-mayor Jim Corbett called Tucson's East Speedway Boulevard the "ugliest street in America." At the time, it was enveloped by garish billboards that obscured the city's beautiful vistas. Then Life magazine ran a two-page photo of the forest of road signs and advertisements. The embarrassing spotlight led to Tucson's sign code, passed in the 1980s, which gradually limited billboards and tacky signage.

8) According to Guinness World Records, Davis-Monthan Airforce Base in Tucson has the largest aircraft repair shop and storage facility on Earth. Covering 2600 acres, it could house 4200 aircraft and 40 aerospace vehicles at one time, while still leaving room for 350,000 production tools.

9) In 2013, a new species of scorpion was discovered in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are visible from downtown Tucson. Biologist Rob Bryson Jr. discovered the species in the Santa Catalinas' "sky islands"—isolated mountaintop habitats known for their biodiversity.

10) Cyclists should consider dropping by on the last Saturday before Thanksgiving for El Tour de Tucson, Arizona's largest and longest-running cycling event. The series of races attracts more than 9000 bike enthusiasts per year and usually raises about $2 million for local charities.

11) Hugo O’Conor, an Irish colonel in the Spanish army, is regarded by some as the founder of Tucson. Although a Spanish mission had been operating in present-day Tucson since 1692, and Native American communities before that, O’Conor arranged to have a military base for Spain's army set up on the site in 1775, resulting in a population boom for the city. O'Conor's red hair and courage in battle gave him the nickname “The Red Captain.”

12) The United States Handball Association Hall of Fame is located on North Tucson Boulevard.

13) Five years after peace was declared in the Mexican-American War, the U.S. bought the lower third of Arizona, which included Tucson, from Mexico. The $10 million transaction, known as the Gadsden Purchase, was finalized in 1854 and added a 30,000-square-mile territory to the United States. The expansion allowed Gadsden, a railroad promoter, to build a transcontinental railroad through the new territory.

14) One of the largest rock shows in the country, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show attracts around 50,000 people annually. In addition to hosting gemstone scholars and dealers, the annual convention has exhibited the most dazzling rocks in existence—like the Hope diamond, lunar rocks collected by NASA astronauts, and the eye-popping Logan sapphire.

15) The Arizona State University Sun Devils and the University of Arizona Wildcats have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to their first meeting in 1889. Each year, the teams compete for the Territorial Cup, the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. The Wildcats play regular home games in their 56,000-seat stadium in midtown Tucson.

16) Speaking of the University of Arizona, it was founded in 1891—21 years before Arizona achieved statehood.

17) Tucson's world-class culinary scene was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015 as a “Capital of Gastronomy.” Only 18 cities around the world have been given this title, and no other American city has cracked the list yet. Jonathan Mabry, a historic preservation officer in Tucson, filed the application for the city. “There are more heritage foods grown within 100 miles of Tucson than any other city in North America,” he told Smithsonian.com.

18) The Fourth Avenue Underpass doubles as a one-of-a-kind photo gallery. Roughly 7000 tiles bearing black and white portraits of 21st-century Tucsonans line the walls.

19) Four national flags have flown over the Old Pueblo. Spain ruled Tucson and the rest of Mexico until 1821. Then Mexico itself took over, but sold Tucson and much more territory to the United States in 1854 (see #13). When the Civil War broke out, the city joined the Confederacy and flew the Confederate flag from February to June 1862. Then Union forces, bearing the American flag, took the city back

20) Tucson is the oldest incorporated city in Arizona (and has been since incorporating in 1877).

21) For a few weeks in 1933, radio listeners in Tucson could enjoy a local show hosted by a very young Ray Bradbury. At age 12, he landed a gig at KGAR reciting comic strips on the air every Saturday night. “My pay was free tickets to see King Kong, Murders in the Wax Museum, and The Mummy,” he later reminisced. “You can’t do any better than that.”

22) El Charro Café is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the U.S. continuously operated by the same family. It may also be the birthplace of the chimichanga. As the legend goes, they were invented by Monica Flin, who established El Charro in 1922. She once flipped a burrito right into the fryer, splattering oil everywhere. Since kids were within earshot, she resisted the urge to curse and yelled “chimichanga,” a slang word that means thingamajig, instead.

23) The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is truly larger than life. A gallery of scale models, it boasts more than 300 tiny room boxes and houses. Some examples predate the Revolutionary War.

24) Downtown, a street known as Calle Carlos Arruza honors one of the greatest bullfighters in history, Mexican-born Carlos Arruza, whose nickname was El Ciclon (The Cyclone). According to historian David Leighton, Calle Carlos Arruza is one of the very few streets—possibly the only street—in the U.S. named after a bullfighter.

25) Only two non-captive jaguars, the largest cats in the New World, are known to reside within the U.S. One of them, nicknamed El Jefe, is a Tucson celebrity. Discovered in 2011, he can be found stalking the Santa Rita Mountains 25 miles south of the city. Jaguars are a near-threatened species: biologists estimate that about 15,000 are left in the wild.

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The Night the Brat Pack Was Born
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If Emilio Estevez had opted to pay for his movie ticket, the Brat Pack might never have been born. It was spring 1985, and Estevez—then the 23-year-old co-star of St. Elmo’s Fire—was being profiled in New York Magazine. The angle was that Estevez had just signed a deal to write, direct, and star in his own feature, That Was Then... This is Now, an opportunity that was rarely afforded to young Hollywood talent. Estevez was two years younger than Orson Welles was when he performed similar duties for 1941’s Citizen Kane.

That youthful exuberance was on display as New York writer David Blum followed Estevez in and around Los Angeles for several days gathering material for the story. With Blum in tow, Estevez decided that he wanted to catch a screening of Ladyhawke, a fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick. For reasons not made entirely clear, he preferred not to have to pay for a ticket. According to Blum, Estevez called the theater and politely asked for free admission before entering an 8 p.m. screening.

It's likely Estevez was just having a little fun with his celebrity. But to Blum, it was indicative of a mischievous, slightly grating sense of entitlement. Blum’s assessment was that Estevez was acting “bratty,” an impression he felt was reinforced when he witnessed a gathering of other young actors at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe for the same story.

What was supposed to be a modest profile of Estevez turned into a cover story declaration: Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” was here, and they had decided to forego the earnest acting study preferred by their predecessors to spend their nights partying instead.

The day the story hit newsstands, Blum received a call from Estevez. “You’ve ruined my life,” he said.

The June 1985 cover of New York magazine
New York, Google Books

Blum’s label had its roots in the Rat Pack of the 1960s, so named for the carousing boys' club led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was accurate or not, the performers developed reputations for squeezing every last drink, perk, and joke they could out of their celebrity well into middle age.

That dynamic was on Blum’s mind when New York dispatched him to cover Estevez. After he arrived in California, Blum took note of the fact that a tight cluster of actors seemed to have formed a group, both on- and off-screen. Estevez was close friends with Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, and all of them appeared in 1983’s The Outsiders; Lowe and Estevez were co-starring in St. Elmo’s Fire, a coming-of-age drama that also featured Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson; Estevez and Nelson gained a lot of attention for 1984’s The Breakfast Club.

To Blum, Estevez was more than just a multi-hyphenate; he appeared to be the nucleus of a group that spent a lot of time working and playing together. And in fairness to Blum, Estevez didn’t dissuade the writer from that take: Fearing he was coming off as too serious in the profile, Estevez asked Lowe and Nelson to hang out with him at Los Angeles’s Hard Rock Cafe so Blum could see the actor's lighter side.

Nelson would later recall that he felt uneasy around Blum. “Why is this guy having dinner with us?” he asked Estevez. Lowe, meanwhile, was busy flirting with women approaching their table. The group later went to a "punk rock" club, with a Playboy Playmate tagging along.

As celebrity hedonism goes, it was a tame evening. But Blum walked away with the idea that Estevez was the unofficial president of an exclusive club—attractive actors who were soaking up success while idling late into the night.

Blum returned to New York with a different angle for his editors. He wanted to capture this “Brat Pack,” a “roving band” of performers “on the prowl” for good times. Although the magazine had just run a cover story about a teenage gang dubbed “the wolf pack” and feared repetition, they agreed.

As far as Estevez and the others were concerned, Blum was busy executing a piece on Estevez’s ambitions as a writer and director. When Estevez, Nelson, and Lowe appeared on the cover—taken from a publicity still for St. Elmo’s Fire—with his newly-coined phrase, they were horrified.

Blum began getting calls from angry publicists from each of the actors mentioned in the article—and there had been a lot of them. In addition to Estevez, the de facto leader, and lieutenants Lowe and Nelson, Blum had dubbed go-to John Hughes geek Anthony Michael Hall the “mascot”; Timothy Hutton was said to be on the verge of excommunication for his film “bombs”; Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Matt Dillon were also mentioned.

To the actors, the effect was devastating. Independent of how they spent their free time, all of them were pursuing serious careers as performers, with producers, directors, and casting agents mindful of their portrayal in the media. Being a Brat Packer was synonymous with being listless, or not taking their craft seriously.

Nelson recalled the blowback was immediate: Managers told him to stop socializing with his friends for fear he’d be stigmatized as unreliable. “These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people, funny, smart, committed to the work,” he said in 2013. “I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only [were] we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people.”

Universal Pictures

Some of the actors went on The Phil Donahue Show to criticize the profile, asserting that their remarks to Blum had been off-the-record. (Blum denied this.) Lowe told the media that Blum had “burned bridges” and that he was “no Hunter S. Thompson.” Andrew McCarthy called Blum a “lazy … journalist” and found the idea of an actor “tribe” absurd—he had never even met Anthony Michael Hall.

Unfortunately, the name stuck. “Brat Pack” was infectious—a catch-all for the kind of young performer emerging in the ‘80s who could be seen in multiple ensemble movies. While Blum would later express regret over the label, it’s never quite left the public consciousness. In 2005, Universal released a DVD boxed set—The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles—as The Brat Pack Collection.

Nelson, Estevez, and Lowe never again appeared in a movie together. “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist,” Estevez told a reporter in 2011. “Warning: My ghost will come back and haunt them.”

Nelson was slightly less forgiving. In a 2013 podcast, he chastised Blum for his mischaracterization of the group of young actors. “I would have been better served following my gut feeling and knocking him unconscious.”

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