(Reuters) - The National Football League on Monday fined the Atlanta Falcons $350,000 and stripped them of a fifth-round draft choice in 2016 for piping in artificial crowd noise during their home games in 2013 and part of 2014.
Separately, Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer has been suspended four games for texting coaches during games in 2014 and the team was fined $250,000, the NFL said.
Falcons President Rich McKay, although not implicated in the scheme, will be suspended from the league’s competition committee from April 1 through at least June 30 for failing to ensure that the team complied with NFL rules, the league said.
“What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Monday in a statement.
“Anytime there are actions that compromise the integrity of the NFL or threaten the culture of our franchise, as this issue did, they will be dealt with swiftly and strongly.”
Pumping in crowd noise is designed to make it harder for opposing teams to hear signals and is a violation of NFL rules.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said the Falcons admitted using artificial crowd noise during home games at the Georgia Dome in 2013 and until November 2014 when they were notified of the violation.
Vincent said Roddy White, the team’s former director of event marketing, was “directly responsible” for the violation. He said White, who no longer works in the NFL, would have been suspended for the first eight weeks of the 2015 regular season.
If White latches on with another NFL team, he may be required to serve some or all of this suspension, Vincent said.
The Falcons’ Blank said the team has “addressed the matter internally and taken actions to ensure that something like this does not happen again.”
“We understand the penalties imposed and their impact on our team, and we will not appeal the league’s decisions,” he said.
The NFL said the Browns’ Farmer will be suspended without pay for the team’s first four regular-season games of 2015. Farmer apologized last month for texting during games in violation of the league’s electronic device policy.
Farmer has not revealed whom he texted, but reports have said the texts went to an assistant coach and an unnamed team representative on the sideline and that they dealt with in-game strategy.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Eric Walsh