After several weeks’ worth of watching coaches remove their masks in order to yell at referees, the NFL has apparently had enough. According to a report from NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, NFL Senior VP of Officiating Perry Fewell sent teams a memo this week indicating that the league plans to impose penalties on teams whose coaches and/or players approach game officials without a face covering. Per Pelissero, those penalties could include “a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, as well as possible fines, suspensions and forfeiture of draft picks.”
The memo apparently referenced the fact that several coaches have done this during the first four weeks of the season, and notified teams that officials have been reminded they have the authority to take administrative or officiating action.
Honestly, it’s about time the league took this step. There have been positive coronavirus tests sweeping across the league over the past two weeks, including a full-blown outbreak in Tennessee. Titans players reportedly broke the league’s COVID-19 protocols to gather for an in-person workout while away from the facility, Raiders players reportedly broke protocols at a charity event, and in the last week there have been additional positive tests in New England, Kansas City, and possibly New York.
The league needs to take this as seriously as possible, and that includes enforcing the wearing of facemasks both at team facilities during the week and on the sideline during games. They have already fined coaches for either not wearing or improperly wearing masks, but adding this component of penalties for removing a mask to yell at an official is clearly an important next step because it has been happening a whole lot.