While $500,000 may or may not be considered a harsh penalty against a franchise worth around $2.5 billion, the NFL’s latest punishment of the New Orleans Saints over violations during the era of Covid-19 at least sends the message that it isn’t willing to get teams just do what they want, even if they don’t seem to care.
The NFL handed down a $500,000 fine and took away a future seventh-round draft pick from the Saints as punishment over a postgame celebration in Week 9 in which multiple players and coaches were seen not wearing masks. Video of the celebration was shared on social media accounts following a 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and included head coach Sean Payton, linebacker Demario Davis, quarterback Jameis Winston and was filmed by receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Additional videos of the celebration were posted by Davis and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Any similar videos were removed from the Saints’ official social media accounts.
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The Saints have appealed the decision, saying that they believe other teams have done similar celebrations but none of them have been cited in the same manner.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a source said that “the video or the dancing itself wasn’t the issue” but that this is not the first time the Saints organization has flaunted violations of the league’s mask and social distancing policies.
Saints are fined $500,000 and have a 7th-round draft pick taken away for post-game maskless celebrations after win in Tampa, sources tell ESPN.https://t.co/srjLEuOb6w
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 29, 2020
“It was actions in the video with unmasked players in the locker room after the game,” a league source also told ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “The team also had previous violations and was provided ample warning that further actions would result in escalated discipline.”
Payton had been fined $100,000 and the Saints were fined $250,000 back in Week 2 when Payton was not wearing a mask during the team’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Incidentally, Las Vegas was fined $500,000 and their head coach Jon Gruden was fined $150,000 over COVID-19 protocol violations. The Raiders were also stripped of a sixth-round pick.
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots were also fined $350,000 recently over Covid-19 protocol violations related to positive tests involving Cam Newton and other players in November.
So while the Saints might not like the fines, it’s hardly “cruel and unusual” given the way the league has come down on other offenders. New Orleans just seems more upset about getting caught than anything considering the ramifications of their actions.
Meanwhile, the franchise continues to deal with players testing positive for Covid, including backup offensive lineman Derrick Kelly and left tackle Terron Armstead.