The NFL fined the Saints $500,000 and took away a seventh-round draft pick for not wearing masks during their postgame celebrations after beating Tampa Bay 38-3 in Week 9, league sources told ESPN.
The Saints, who were none too happy about the discipline, have appealed the league’s decision. The Saints believe other teams across the league also have celebrated victories without masks, but none have been bit hit the way New Orleans has.
Saints players and the team itself posted celebration videos from their post-game locker room, and it immediately gained the attention of the NFL. Head coach Sean Payton, linebacker Demario Davis and quarterback Jameis Winston, who made his season debut in the victory over his former team, were among those seen dancing and celebrating in the video posted to Instagram by receiver Tre’Quan Smith.
Davis and C.J. Gardner-Johnson also posted videos of the postgame dancing and celebrating on social media. The Saints no longer have any videos of the locker room celebration on their official Twitter account.
The NFL took similar action against the Raiders earlier this season, when Las Vegas was fined $500,000, head coach Jon Gruden was fined $150,000 and the franchise was stripped of a sixth-round pick for COVID-19 protocol violations.
One issue the league was focused on, according to sources, was that like Gruden and the Raiders, Payton and the Saints are repeat offenders. Payton was fined $100,000 and the Saints $250,000 because Payton was not wearing a mask during New Orleans’ Week 2 loss in Las Vegas. NFL discipline almost always is more severe for repeat offenders.
The NFL sent out a memo to all teams on Nov. 3 with updated COVID-19 protocols that stressed: “All players and staff must wear masks or double-layered gaiters in the locker room on gameday — prior to the game, during halftime, and post-game.”
Conversations between the Saints and the NFL will continue, according to sources, but the locker room celebration video was there for everyone to see.