NFL threatens suspensions, forfeiture of draft picks for mask-wearing violations

The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams indicating that further violations of the league's game-day protocols for wearing masks could result in discipline that includes suspensions or forfeitures of draft picks.

Sent Wednesday from NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent and addressed to team executives, general managers, head coaches, athletic trainers and public relations directors, the memo warns that "this lack of compliance creates unnecessary risk to game day participants."

During the 2020 season, as the league focuses on playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have mutually agreed upon a list of game-day protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus. Some of those measures include mandatory mask or face coverings to be worn by coaches and non-player personnel on sidelines.

"We will continue to address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may also include suspensions of persons involved, and/or the forfeiture of a draft choice(s)," reads the memo, which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reacts on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)

Last week, USA TODAY Sports confirmed that five head coaches – Pete Carroll of the Seahawks, Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers, Vic Fangio of the Broncos, Sean Payton of the Saints and Jon Gruden of the Raiders – were each fined $100,000 for failing to proper maintain their faces covered during their Week 3 games. Each of the franchises was also docked $250,000 as part of the discipline.

"I had a coach who was reminding me about it throughout the game, (running backs coach) Chad Morton was on my ass the whole night," Carroll said after Seattle's Week 3 game against the Patriots. "He was reminding me the whole time. I even changed masks at halftime to find one that worked better. Sometimes you've got to get coached up. Sometimes you have to admit that that you screwed up and have got to do better."

Vincent sent a memo to the 32 clubs on Sept. 14 and another from the NFL Football Operations/NFL Management Council on September 25, asking that teams and personnel observe the game-day protocols.

In Wednesday's memo, Vincent said the league "saw significant progress" in Week 3's games but noted that "wearing of protective equipment is still not universal."

Vincent also noted that inconsistent use of face coverings "threatens to undermine fan confidence" in the healthy and safety protocols outlined by the league before the 2020 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," the memo read. "Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings and observing physical distancing requirements will put the 2020 season at risk."

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