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.

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."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios