NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL has fined the Atlanta Falcons, stripped the organization of a draft pick and suspended team president Rich McKay from the league's Competition Committee beginning April 1 following the team's use of fake noise at home games.
In statement released Monday, the league announced that 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.
The NFL noted throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season the Falcons violated league rules that state "at no point during the game can artificial crowd noise or amplified crowd noise be played in the stadium."
The league also said Roddy White, the team's former director of event marketing, was directly responsible for the violation and would have been suspended without pay for the first eight weeks of the 2015 regular season had he still been with the club. The Falcons fired him.
The league determined that Falcons ownership and senior executives, including McKay, were unaware of the use of an audio file with artificial crowd noise. But as the senior club executive overseeing game operations, McKay bears some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules. McKay can petition Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement to the committee no sooner than June 30.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank told The Associated Press in early February that he had seen enough of the NFL's investigation to acknowledge wrongdoing by his club.
"It's not really a fine line," Blank told the AP. "I think what we've done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong. Anything that affects the competitive balance and fairness on the field, we're opposed to, as a league, as a club and as an owner. It's obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn't represent our culture and what we're about."
The Falcons say 101 of 103 games have been sellouts since Blank bought the team in 2002. Actual turnouts declined during losing seasons the last two years.
Atlanta ranked 10th among the 32 NFL teams with its average home attendance of 72,130 in 2014. Construction is underway for a new $1.4 billion stadium that will replace the Georgia Dome in 2017. The new stadium will have a similar seating capacity.