It’s the must-have fashion accessory of the 2020 NFL season: face masks. And for coaches who continue to commit the fashion faux pas of not wearing them on the sideline during games, they are about to find out how serious the league is about enforcing their rules.
The NFL is the No. 1 television program in the U.S., and there isn’t such a thing as the second most popular. The list of most-watched programs each year is dominated 1 to 10 by NFL games. So it’s impossible for coaches to get away with not wearing masks — the whole world is watching.
Following Week One, the NFL made it clear that coaches who fail to wear the face coverings properly are going to be subject to “accountability measures.” Translation: a six-figure reduction in their weekly paycheck. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was one of five coaches to receive a $100,000 fine that week. The teams that employed those coaches were hit with a quarter-million-dollar ticket for the infraction.
Fast-forward to Week Three. The league reiterated the requirement that coaches and all sideline personnel have to wear masks or the penalties could increase to suspensions and lost draft choices. There was a fairly big outbreak of positive coronavirus tests with the Tennessee Titans, enough to force the league to postpone their game this week. So the subject is front and center for the league.
The one coach who might be in for a phone call from New York City on Monday is Gruden. There were multiple times in the Raiders game today when his mask was below his chin. Gruden is one of the highest-paid coaches in sports, making $10 million per season. He may think a fine is worth it because he’s able to communicate better without the mask. He might feel, since he tested positive for COVID-19 once this summer, that he is less likely to contract or spread it.
Monday is going to be an interesting day. We’ll most likely find out what the consequences are for these coaches. And COVID-19 concerns moved the Patriots and Chiefs game to Monday, so NFL fans will be treated to the best matchup of the weekend in primetime.