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Why the NFL fined the Saints, Patriots for COVID-19 protocol violations

The Saints reportedly became the second NFL team to lose a draft pick due to COVID-19 protocol violations.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Saints were fined $500K and docked their 2021 seventh-round NFL Draft pick Sunday for a mask-less locker room celebration that went somewhat viral. The Patriots were also fined, at a cost of $350K, for violations stemming from October when Cam Newton and others tested positive for the coronavirus. New Orleans received a bigger punishment due to being a repeat offender to violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

MORE: NFL’s COVID-19 rules, explained

Saints fine details

The Saints received a punishment due to their locker room celebrations at the end of Week 9. New Orleans blew out the Buccaneers that week, 38-3. Afterward, they had a dance party in the locker room that didn’t feature any masks. 

The celebration was only known because some Saints posted the video on social media, as did the official team Twitter account.

New Orleans had already been fined following Week 2 for Payton and others’ failures to properly follow sideline mask protocol. The Raiders already had repeat-offender status this season, and they received a $500K fine along with the loss of a sixth-round pick. New Orleans gets the same fine ahead of Week 12 while having a seventh-round pick taken away. 

NFL players and staff are supposed to wear masks when indoors, even in team facilities, and especially when they’re within six feet of other individuals, as they are in the video above. Since that video, the NFL has increased its mask strictness to essentially require personnel to wear masks everywhere but while in the game playing. 

Patriots fine details

Rapoport’s report said the Patriots’ fine has roots from the COVID-19 outbreak in New England in the lead-up to Week 5. Quarterback Cam Newton was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list on Oct. 3, the first of seven Patriots who were placed on the list over the next two weeks (New England hasn’t had any players added to the list since).

New England’s coronavirus outbreak forced its Week 5 game against Denver to be postponed two different times. It’s not clear based on reports what the specific violation was, although the $350K fine is equivalent to what Tennessee received earlier in the season after more than 20 members of the Titans’ organization tested positive for COVID-19. 

Following Newton and Stephon Gilmore’s positive tests in October, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the pair had eaten dinner together shortly before Newton tested positive. Gilmore’s wife went on to dispute that report. 




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