Thursday, July 17, 2008

NFL Investigates Players’ On-Field Gang Signs

The National Football League has thrown the penalty flag down against its players, as the league will begin to crack down on athletes who use gang-related hand gestures as part of their on-field celebrations.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the NFL has hired experts to study game footage to determine whether players are using street-gang signs during the celebration of a sack or touchdown. Although, league officials do not believe the problem is widespread, the NFL has spoken to some unidentified players about their use of hand signals.

“There have been some suspected things we’ve seen,” Milt Ahlerich , the NFL’s vice president of security told the Times . “When we see it, we quietly jump on it immediately, directly with the team and the player or employee involved to cease and desist. Period.”

The NFL’s decision to review game tape for suspected signs came when the higher profile case of gang signs occurred during the NBA playoffs. Boston Celtics forward and captain Paul Pierce was fine $25,000 for making “menacing gestures” towards the Atlanta Hawks bench during a game of the opening round series.

“We were always suspicious that [gang-related hand signals] might be happening,” Mike Pereira , the NFL’s vice-president of officiating told the Times. “But the Paul Pierce thing is what brought it to light. When he was fined…that’s when we said we need to take a look at it and see if we need to be aware of it.”

In efforts to control the situation, first-year players who attended the NFL’s rookie symposium this summer were counseled on gangs, and last season every player was required to view a video on the dangers of gangs.

Some players believe that differentiating between a gang sign and something less menacing can involve some guesswork.

"Guys come from all over the country, and who knows what they're really doing?" Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Dennis Northcutt told the Times. "People have got signs for their kids, signs for their fraternities. How do you differentiate who's really throwing up gang signs?”

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