The NFL has been investigating the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons for infractions over the last year, and they have come to a close. The Ted Wells investigation into DeflateGate continues, but we at least have some resolution elsewhere. The Browns were fined, and the Falcons were stripped of a 2016 fifth round pick. For the pick, it will be the highest of whatever picks they have in that round.
It was another odd implementation of the rules. The league said Falcons higher-ups were unaware of the crowd noise issue, but bore some responsibility for ensuring team employees comply with league rules. On the other hand, the Browns higher-ups had no knowledge and it does not appear that was held against them. Way to go, NFL!
The Browns were investigated based on reports that general manager Ray Farmer had texted coaches during games. This is against the rules, although I don't really know where we would find the specific rule. The FL decided to find the Browns $250,000 and suspend Farmer without pay for the Browns first four regular season games in 2015. Here is the statement they issued about the Browns situation:
The use of a cell phone on multiple occasions during games in 2014 by Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer was a violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games. Based on these violations, the Browns have been fined $250,000 and Ray Farmer will be suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games of the 2015 season. The suspension will start on midnight of the Sunday preceding the Browns' first regular-season game and will end immediately after the Browns' fourth regular-season game. During the period of the suspension, Farmer cannot be involved in any club matters and is prohibited from being at the Browns' offices, practice facility, or at Browns games.
There was no evidence in the NFL's review that Browns ownership or any other team executives had knowledge of the prohibited conduct. Once the violation was discovered, Browns management implemented new processes to ensure future compliance.
The Falcons were investigated for illegally piping in pre-recorded crowd noise. They apparently did this in 2013 and 2014 before the violation was acknowledged in November. Apparently the team's director of event marketing was responsible for this. His name is Roddy White, and no, he is not the wide receiver Roddy White.
The Falcons were fined $350,000, and will forfeit their fifth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, team president Rich McCkay is suspended from the competition committee for at least three months.
The Atlanta Falcons have acknowledged the use of pre-recorded crowd noise in violation of NFL rules during home games throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season until the club was notified last November that the violation had been identified. The rule states that "at no point during the game can artificial crowd noise or amplified crowd noise be played in the stadium." Based on the full record, the Falcons have been fined $350,000 and will forfeit their fifth-round selection in the 2016 Draft. If the Falcons have multiple picks in that round, the highest selection will be forfeited.
Our review concluded that Roddy White, the team's former director of event marketing, was directly responsible for the violation. Mr. White would have been suspended without pay for the first eight weeks of the 2015 regular season had he still been with the club. If Mr. White obtains employment with another NFL team during the 2015 season, he may be required to serve some or all of this suspension.
Our review also determined that Falcons ownership and senior executives, including team President Rich McKay, were unaware of Mr. White's use of an audio file with artificial crowd noise. However, Mr. McKay, as the senior club executive overseeing game operations, bears some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules. As a result, Mr. McKay will be suspended from the Competition Committee beginning April 1. He may petition Commissioner Goodell for reinstatement to the committee no sooner than June 30.