Falcons fined, lose draft pick for using fake crowd noise

The Atlanta Falcons have been fined $350,000 and will lose a 2016 draft pick for pumping artificial crowd noise into the Georgia Dome over the last two seasons.

The NFL announced Monday that the Falcons will lose a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft. If the Falcons have multiple picks in the fifth round, they will lose the highest of those selections.

In addition, Falcons president Rich McKay will be suspended from the league’s competition committee from April 1 through at least June 30 for failing to ensure that the franchise complied with league rules.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank previously acknowledged the wrongdoing and said the situation was “embarrassing.”

“What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement Monday. “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.

“The league conducted a thorough investigation of this matter, and we cooperated fully. We understand the penalties imposed and their impact on our team, and we will not appeal the league’s decisions. Further, we have addressed the matter internally and taken actions to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

“The Falcons and all of our other businesses are built upon a foundation of values that drive our decision making. This issue was a clear failure in that regard. I apologize for any embarrassment this situation has caused the NFL, our fans, and our Falcons players and associates.”

The organization was accused in 2013 and 2014 of using fake crowd noise in an apparent attempt to make it more difficult for opponents’ offenses to call signals. The league has been investigating the claim since November.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent released a statement and revealed the league concluded that Roddy White, the Falcons’ former director of marketing (not the Pro Bowl receiver), was responsible for the violation.

“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 NFL statement said. “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.

“We appreciate the courtesy and cooperation the Falcons organization extended during our inquiry.”

The Falcons, 6-10 overall in 2014, had a 3-4 record at the Georgia Dome, including being routed by the Carolina Panthers 34-3 in the season finale for the NFC South Division title. The Falcons played one “home” game in London.

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