(UPDATED: 12: 30 p.m.)
Having failed to provide their fans with a reason to cheer in the last two years, the Falcons did what they believed was the next best thing: They funneled in fake crowd noise.
When you consider the team has been funneling in fake pass rushers for years, the decision sort of fit in with the organizational philosophy.
Didn't work. They're going to pay a price. They should -- for stupidity, if nothing else.
Team officials finally heard from the NFL Monday following a lengthy investigation into the fake noise issue in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
• The team will lose a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, not 2015. As reported in this corner of the blogosphere last week, there was foreshadowing for that when the league released the full draft order before the announcement of any penalties for potential infractions by the Falcons, New England and Cleveland. The Falcons much preferred losing a pick this year, when theoretically the pick would be higher than in 2016. They also have more time to prepare for a lost pick next year.
• The Falcons will be fined $350,000. For Blank, that's breakfast. Maybe dinner.
• Team president and CEO Rich McKay will be suspended from the NFL's competition committee for a period of three months (April 1 to June 30). While McKay may not have directly approved the plan by the team's marketing department and/or stadium operations personnel to funnel fake noise through the Georgia Dome's loudspeakers, he oversees the Falcons' non-football operations. So McKay accepting a suspension from the powerful competition committee, of which he has been a member for years, would be a way to appease the league.
• Roddy White (not that one), the team's former director of event marketing, has been found responsible for the fake noise violation. He would've been suspended for the first half of the season but he was fired. (A suspension could carry over if he is hired by another team.)
Here's the NFL's full statement on the penalties:
"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.
Here's Blank's statement on the penalties:
“What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business. 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.”
News of the league's investigation first broke during the Super Bowl and had dragged on for several weeks. The Falcons should feel fortunate now that there is closure and they won't lose a draft pick this year.
The focus now should be: Real pass rushers, real team and real noise.