Any coach who approaches a referee without wearing a proper face covering now can be hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
A memo sent to teams on Friday from Perry Fewell, the NFL’s senior vice-president of officiating administration, authorises officials to throw the flags. It is a response to complaints from the NFL Referees Association about coaches and other sideline personnel pulling down their masks to yell at officials from close range.
“We have seen multiple occasions where head coaches have removed their masks to communicate with game officials during games,” Fewell wrote in the memo.
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“Doing so creates unnecessary, increased risk for the game official, the head coach, and others, and is inconsistent with the requirement that face coverings be worn at all times.
“Consistent with all other individuals on the sideline, game officials are entitled to your respect as they perform their job duties during the pandemic.”
The league’s COVID-19 protocols require everyone on the sideline to wear a face covering except for players who are actively involved in the game. The referees only remove their masks to announce penalties.
The NFL fined five coaches $100,000 each – and their teams $250,000 – for failing to wear masks properly in the early weeks of the season.
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