The NFL fined the New Orleans Saints $500,000 and took away a seventh-round draft pick because they didn't wear masks during their postgame celebrations after beating Tampa Bay 38-3 in Week 9, league sources told ESPN on Sunday.
The Saints, who were not 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 has been been hit the way New Orleans has.
Saints players and the team itself posted celebration videos from their postgame locker room, and it immediately gained the attention of the NFL. 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.
A league source specified that "the video or the dancing itself wasn't the issue" with the Saints' discipline and that other teams have been disciplined as well for violating the league's protocols.
"It was actions in the video with unmasked players in the locker room after the game," a league source told ESPN's Mike Triplett about the penalty. "The team also had previous violations and was provided ample warning that further actions would result in escalated discipline."
The NFL took similar action against the Raiders earlier this season, when Las Vegas was fined $500,000, coach Jon Gruden was fined $150,000 and the franchise was stripped of a sixth-round pick for COVID-19 protocol violations.
In addition, the New England Patriots were fined $350,000 for COVID-19 protocol violations related to positive tests of Cam Newton and others in October, a source confirmed to ESPN's Dan Graziano on Sunday. The Patriots' fine was first reported by NFL Network.
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.
The Saints on Sunday added backup offensive lineman Derrick Kelly to the reserve/COVID-19 list and elevated guard/center Cameron Tom from the practice squad. Kelly is the only new player added to the list after left tackle Terron Armstead tested positive Saturday.