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NFL hits New Orleans Saints with massive fine, draft penalty for celebrating without face masks

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'... unmasked players in the locker room after the game'

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The New Orleans Saints were hit with a massive fine and costly penalty over the weekend for celebrating their recent win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL South division rival, without face coverings.

What are the details?

Following their dominating 38-3 win over the Buccaneers on Nov. 8, Saints players and the team's coaching staff allegedly celebrated without wearing face masks. In response, league officials have fined the team a whopping $500,000 and revoked a seventh-round draft pick, according to ESPN.

Videos posted to social media showed numerous players and head coach Sean Payton celebrating postgame in their locker room without masks. Those videos circulated online and apparently caught the attention of league officials.

League sources told ESPN reporter Mike Triplett that the Saints' discipline was directly in response to the team's non-masked activity in the locker room after the game.

"It was actions in the video with unmasked players in the locker room after the game," the source said. "The team also had previous violations and was provided ample warning that further actions would result in escalated discipline."

Why such a harsh penalty?

The Saints are not the first team to be penalized for violating the NFL's COVID-19 protocol. The New England Patriots, for example, were tagged with a $350,000 fine for not following league rules after quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 last month, ESPN reported.

However, the Saints are a repeat offender, leading to the more severe penalty.

In fact, the team has already been hit with one COVID-related penalty. Head coach Sean Payton was hit with a $100,000 fine and the team with a $250,000 fine after Payton was caught without a face covering during a game in September.

Nor are the Saints the first NFL team to receive such a stiff fine levied against them for COVID reasons — that distinction belongs to the Las Vegas Raiders.

From USA Today in early November:

After Raiders right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, the NFL found video evidence that included several players not wearing masks or face shields and not adhering to social distancing on the sidelines, a person with knowledge of the league's investigation told USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details of the probe. The investigation also found that Brown removed the electronic contact tracing device that players and staff members are required to wear as a tool for mitigating spread.

In response, the NFL fined the Raiders $500,000, stripped the franchise of a sixth-round draft pick, and fined head coach Jon Gruden $150,000.

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