The NFL has issued another strong warning to coaches who won’t wear masks on the sideline during games, threatening suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks as punishment for failing to comply with COVID-19 game-day protocols, according to a league memo obtained Wednesday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The strongly worded memo, sent to coaches, general managers and team executives by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, includes a passage in which the NFL says it will “address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may include … suspensions and/or forfeiture of draft picks.”
It marks the second time this month that the NFL has warned coaches to comply with coronavirus-related protocols by wearing a mask on the sideline.
The league has already fined four head coaches this season — Las Vegas‘ Jon Gruden, New Orleans‘ Sean Payton, Denver‘s Vic Fangio and the Rams‘ Sean McVay — for not wearing masks on the sideline during games.
“Both our own and independent medical advisors have emphasized the need to remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by agreement with the NFLPA as well as by state and local governments,” Vincent wrote in the memo.
“We are only through Week 3 of the season. If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols … will put the 2020 season at risk.”
During Monday night’s game against Kansas City, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was seen with his mask covering lowered while arguing with line judge Mark Steinkerchner about a tripping penalty on tight end Nick Boyle.
“I know we really try our best,” Harbaugh said. “I compare with what we do here with the masks and all of the protocols with anybody — just not in the National Football League, but anywhere in the world.
“We have been, for all three games, really good on the sideline. I don’t think there is anybody better than us, me or our staff, from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. To think in a three-hour heated competitive environment — especially when you’re yelling — that your mask isn’t going to fall down for 5 to 10 seconds, I don’t think anybody could be held to that standard.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.