That'll Cost You: NFL Fines Through the Years

Jim McMahon, famous for using his head.
Jim McMahon, famous for using his head.
Getty Images

In the wake of the NFL’s crackdown on concussions and the increasing number of player fines issued for helmet-to-helmet hits, here’s a look at 15 other offenses, ranging from the serious to the absurd, that have drawn fines over the years.

Amateur Hour

In 1925, the NFL fined the Milwaukee Badgers $500 and ordered owner Ambrose L. McGurk to sell the team within 90 days after the Badgers allowed four high school boys to play in a game against the Chicago Cardinals. The fine crippled the franchise, which folded in 1926.

Wes Welker’s Snow Angel

And you wonder why they call it the No Fun League. Wes Welker made the world’s most expensive snow angel after scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals at snowy Gillette Field in 2008. An NFL rule prohibits players from going to the ground as part of touchdown celebrations, so Welker was fined $10,000. "It was a spur-of-the-moment deal, and you can be sure that it won't happen again," Welker told the Boston Globe.

Let Them Score

In 1984, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay was fined $10,000 for his unsportsmanlike actions during the final game of the regular season.

With the Bucs leading the Jets 41-14 in the fourth quarter, McKay called for an onside kick in an attempt to get the ball back and give running back James Wilder a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record for combined rushing and receiving yards. When New York recovered, McKay ordered his defense to let the Jets score. New York’s players were outraged and the Jets attempted an onside kick of their own in hopes of denying Wilder a shot at the record. Tampa Bay recovered, but Wilder was tackled by Mark Gastineau on the game’s final play, 16 yards shy of Dickerson’s mark. McKay, who resigned after the season, was fined $10,000. The Jets earned their revenge in the Meadowlands the following season, demolishing the Bucs 62-28.

Penalty for Losing

Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi reportedly fined players $100 for every day that they held out to help finance an end-of-season team party, but that was nothing compared to what one of his Packer predecessors did. In 1948, Green Bay head coach Curly Lambeau fined his team one-half of one game’s salary for a poor showing in a 17-7 loss to Chicago that dropped the Packers to 2-2. “One of the big reasons this situation exists is that the boys are getting good salaries and they’re content,” Lambeau said. “For that reason there’s got to be a penalty for losing.”

Aloha Means Early Goodbye

In 1993, Troy Aikman was fined $10,000 for leaving the Pro Bowl in Hawaii after the third quarter. Aikman said he needed to be in Dallas for a charity meeting the next morning.

Jim McMahon Uses His Head

In 1985, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle fined Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon $5,000 for wearing an Adidas headband in a playoff game against the Giants. McMahon wore the headband throughout the regular season, but the league had informed him that they would start enforcing the rule that prohibited players from promoting brands that weren’t sponsors of the NFL during the playoffs. In the NFC Championship game the following week, McMahon wore a headband that read, “Rozelle.” The commissioner reportedly laughed when he saw it. McMahon and the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl.

Brian Urlacher’s Expensive Hat

McMahon’s fine was a drop in the bucket compared to the fine levied against another Chicago Bears star, linebacker Brian Urlacher, at Super Bowl Media Day in 2007. Urlacher was fined $100,000 for wearing a hat with the Vitamin Water logo. Gatorade, of course, is the NFL’s official sports drink sponsor. The fine was especially hefty because of when and where the hat was worn. League officials said the same violation would have carried a $50,000 fine at the Pro Bowl and a $10,000 fine during the regular season. According to UniformViolation.com, an excellent database of uniform-related fines, Urlacher declined Vitamin Water’s offer to pay the fine. The hat was later sold on eBay for $15,000.

Ryan Clark Pays to Honor Sean Taylor

Of the many uniform-related fines the league has levied, this was one of the cruelest. One year after the murder of his former Washington Redskins teammate and friend Sean Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was fined $5,000 for wearing eye black with Taylor’s No. 21 etched into it.

Ocho Bribo

“I was just being me,” Chad Ochocinco said after he flashed a dollar at an official during a replay review last season. “I wasn’t going to do it for real.” And the NFL was just being the NFL when it fined the Bengals receiver $20,000 for his attempt at humor. The league prohibits the use of objects that are not part of the uniform and reportedly didn’t appreciate Ochocinco referring to his act as a bribe in the postgame press conference. In the interest of protecting the integrity of the league, the NFL has long taken gambling seriously. Rozelle fined and suspended two of the league’s best players, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, for betting on games in 1963.

Don’t Sulk

Earlier this season, it was revealed that the New York Jets have started fining quarterback Mark Sanchez for poor body language in practice. “Today, there was a play in practice when he screwed something up,” New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the Newark Star-Ledger. “He kind of looked like it was someone else’s fault. That’s a fine.” Veteran quarterback Mark Brunell collects Sanchez’s good-natured fines.

Patriots Fined for Sexual Harassment

In 1990, the New England Patriots and three of the team’s players were fined for their role in an alleged sexual harassment incident involving Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson. According to reports, Patriots tight end Zeke Mowatt “smiled and purposely displayed himself to Olson in a suggestive way.” Mowatt was fined $12,500 and the team was fined $25,000 to pay for an NFL instructional course on dealing with the media. Olson filed a lawsuit against the Patriots, which was settled in 1992. She moved to Australia to get away from the threats and harassing phone calls that came in the aftermath of the incident before returning to the United States in 1998 and taking a position with the New York Daily News.

Wyche Docked for Banning Female Reporters

A few weeks after Olson made her allegations, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Sam Wyche banned a female reporter from entering the locker room after a loss. Wyche attempted to defend the decision by explaining that “our guys don’t want a woman to walk into a situation like that.” The league wasn’t having it. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue levied a $30,000 fine, which was the largest ever assessed an NFL coach. Tagliabue also denied Wyche’s proposed compromise to open the locker room to all reporters 20 minutes after the game ended and then closing it for a period to allow players time to change.

Don’t Be Late

On September 26, 1976, the Minnesota Vikings were fined for arriving late to a game at Detroit’s Pontiac Silver Dome. According to the account of the incident in Black and Blue: A Smash-Mouth History of the NFL’s Roughest Division, the Vikings’ team bus encountered some smash-mouth traffic en route to the stadium, and a trip that should have taken 5 minutes took much longer. As a result, the game started 22 minutes after its scheduled start time. “[Vikings head coach Bud Grant] likes to arrive at the stadium one hour before game time,” a Vikings spokesman told reporters. “We always check with as many people as possible and with the bus company as to when we should leave the hotel. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and this has never happened before.”

Halas Breaks a Rule He Helped Create

?In 1930, NFL President Joe Carr fined George Halas and the Chicago Bears $1,000 for signing Joe Savoldi, a fullback who had been expelled from Notre Dame for being married. NFL bylaws prohibited teams from signing a player before his college class had graduated, a rule that was established shortly after Halas signed Illinois star running back Red Grange in 1925 while he was still in college.

Joe Namath Misses Curfew

Former Jets star quarterback Joe Namath was repeatedly fined for missing bed-checks. A New York Times story that mentioned one such fine during training camp in 1975 included comments from New York’s chief medical examiner about the effects of alcohol on player performance. Dr. Yong-myun Rho determined that athletes could remain impaired from drinking even 20 hours after the fact. "I would say to a football player, 'Don't drink too much.' I would say that not because of alcoholic breath but because there would be an impairment of skills."

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Fast Facts About Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Wilma Rudolph made history as a Black female athlete at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. The 20-year-old Tennessee State University sprinter was the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. Rudolph’s heroics in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter events only lasted seconds, but her legend persists decades later, despite her untimely 1994 death from cancer at age 54. Here are some facts about this U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member.

1. Wilma Rudolph faced poverty and polio as a child.

When Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee, she weighed just 4.5 pounds. Olympic dreams seemed impossible for Rudolph, whose impoverished family included 21 other siblings. Among other maladies, she had measles, mumps, and pneumonia by age 4. Most devastatingly, polio twisted her left leg, and she wore leg braces until she was 9.

2. Wilma Rudolph originally wanted to play basketball.

The Tennessee Tigerbelles. From left to right: Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Wilma Rudolph, and Barbara Jones.Central Press/Getty Images

At Clarksville’s Burt High School, Rudolph flourished on the basketball court. Nearly 6 feet tall, she studied the game, and ran track to keep in shape. However, while competing in the state basketball championship in Nashville, the 14-year-old speedster met a referee named Ed Temple, who doubled as the acclaimed coach of the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team. Temple, who would coach at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, recruited Rudolph.

3. Wilma Rudolph made her Olympic debut as a teenager.

Rudolph hit the limelight at 16, earning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But that didn’t compare to the media hype when she won three gold medals in 1960. French journalists called her “The Black Pearl,” the Italian press hailed “The Black Gazelle,” and in America, Rudolph was “The Tornado.”

4. After her gold medals, Wilma Rudolph insisted on a racially integrated homecoming.

Tennessee governor Buford Ellington, who supported racial segregation, intended to oversee the Clarksville celebrations when Rudolph returned from Rome. However, she refused to attend her parade or victory banquet unless both were open to Black and white people. Rudolph got her wish, resulting in the first integrated events in the city’s history.

5. Muhammad Ali had a crush on Wilma Rudolph.

Ali—known as Cassius Clay when he won the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing title—befriended Rudolph in Rome. That fall, the 18-year-old boxer invited Rudolph to his native Louisville, Kentucky. He drove her around in a pink Cadillac convertible.

6. John F. Kennedy literally fell over when he invited Wilma Rudolph to the White House.

President Kennedy, Wilma Rudolph, Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, and Vice President Johnson in the Oval Office.Abbie Rowe/White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum // Public Domain

In 1961, Rudolph met JFK in the Oval Office. After getting some photos taken together, the President attempted to sit down in his rocking chair and tumbled to the floor. Kennedy quipped: “It’s not every day that I get to meet an Olympic champion.” They chatted for about 30 minutes.

7. Wilma Rudolph held three world records when she retired.

Rudolph chose to go out on top and retired in 1962 at just 22 years old. Her 100-meter (11.2 seconds), 200-meter (22.9 seconds), and 4 x 100-meter relay (44.3 seconds) world records all lasted several years.

8. Wilma Rudolph visited West African countries as a goodwill ambassador.

The U.S. State Department sent Rudolph to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal. According to Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, while there, Rudolph independently met with future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, a nationalist youth movement. She visited Mali, Guinea, and the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as well.

9. Denzel Washington made his TV debut in a movie about Wilma Rudolph.

Before his Oscar-winning performances in Glory (1989) and Training Day (2001), a 22-year-old Denzel Washington portrayed Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s second husband, in Wilma (1977). The film also starred Cicely Tyson as Rudolph’s mother Blanche.

10. Schools, stamps, and statues commemorate Wilma Rudolph’s legacy.

Berlin, Germany, has a high school named after Rudolph. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp celebrating her in 2004. Clarksville features a bronze statue by the Cumberland River, the 1000-capacity Wilma Rudolph Event Center, and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. In Tennessee, June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day.