Should the NFL Fine Coaches for Mask Usage?

Image Courtesy of

Andrew Prokop, Managing Editor

This weekend the NFL dished out massive fines for a lack of mask usage. Only 3 weeks into the 2020-2021 NFL season, and 1.7 million dollars in fines have been dealt out to coaches and teams, with more on the way. Coaches have been fined $100,000 and teams $250,000 for not following mask guidelines. This gives the appearance of a very strong no tolerance policy and should be a good thing amidst the pandemic the nation is going through. In reality, the NFL is trying to make it know that they are following safety protocols, but these fines are too strict especially for already and continuously doing a great job.

The NFL is one of the luckiest major sports in regard to scheduling. They are one of a small number of sports that has not had their regular season impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns. The NFL had the luxury of watching other sports go back to playing with changed rules before having to release official policies. This gave them a chance to gain some experience as to how other major sports handled opening up safely. The most successful of these sports was the NBA, deciding to go with the bubble approach moving everyone to one place and telling players, coaches and staff that they could not leave until the season was over, and ensuring that no one would be allowed into the bubble without testing negative before entry. The MLB while opening with travel, had an initial spike but then settled into place and has not had many problems since.

The NFL decided to try to find that perfect middle ground between the two options. Still traveling but essentially being in a bubble for hotels, travel and field access. The main surprise announcement was allowing teams to choose how to handle fans due to regional variants in the amount of positive cases. Though, strict restrictions were placed on players and staff, including mask restrictions, constant testing, who they are allowed to see, and non-football related activities they could participate in.

With all these safety precautions in place mask usage should not be such heavily scrutinized when being surrounded by players and staff who have all tested negative not only once but numerous times each week and right before the game. It is extremely hypocritical to say that a coach, who generally is facing the field talking into a headset and the occasional ref or player, has to keep a mask on constantly while players do not have to wear a mask on the field and are not only in direct contact, but are trash talking and communicating with each other constantly.

This is not to say that players on the field should be wearing masks but rather to stress the idea that we should have faith in the testing and safety precautions that have been put in place. Now for the bench, where players are crowded and not exerting themselves the extra layer of protection can only help and should still be a general policy. But to fine someone for trying to do their job, especially while already fulfilling a plethora of safety requirements, seems to be overkill and a feeble attempt to give off the appearance of a proactive strong approach to league safety, that quite frankly, is just overkill.