NFL Fines Whitehead For Slash

Actress Sharon Stone talks with Israeli and Palestinian children during a visit to the Holon Mediatech education center near Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday March 9, 2006.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Celebrating the biggest play of his career cost William Whitehead $5,000.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was fined Thursday by the NFL for disregarding their rule against making a throat-slash gesture while celebrating a sack of Rams quarterback Kurt Warner.

"That hurts a lot," Whitehead said. "But I have to take responsibility for it. I was warned not to do it."

Whitehead got a letter from the NFL on Thursday telling him about the fine. It came as no surprise: Whitehead said he expected some kind of disciplinary action.

Whitehead was making the first start of his fledgling NFL career. He sacked Warner in the first quarter of Sunday's game. Then, as the cameras panned in, Whitehead jumped up and made the outlawed motion.

"I don't know why I did it. I didn't mean anything violent or disrespectful by it," Whitehead said. "It was like my hand just betrayed me."

Since celebrating his first-quarter sack in the Saints' 43-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams by running his finger across his throat, Whitehead has been watching replays of the move on television and waiting to see how the league would punish him.

"A fine will hurt bad, I make about the league minimum," said Whitehead, a free agent signed by the Saints this year after spending time briefly with four NFL teams and in the CFL and World League since 1995. "But it's been almost as bad seeing it all the time on TV. I guess I've seen it 70 times. It's embarrassing."

The gesture, used in recent weeks by such stars as Green Bay's Brett Favre, Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp, the New York Jets' Keyshawn Johnson and Seattle's Ricky Watters, was outlawed by the NFL, which said it depicted an unacceptable act of violence.

A letter was sent to all 31 teams banning the gesture, in which a player draws his finger across his throat after making a big play on an opponent. Sometimes, it is aimed at opposing fans.

"Well, football is a violent game, but I didn't mean anything by it," Whitehead said this week. "I didn't aim it at anybody, it was just an unconscious thing. Right after I did it I tried to change it to something else. I thought, `Oh, man, what did I just do?"'

As soon as Whitehead went to the sidelines, he found out his gesture had not escaped the attention of Sains coach Mike Ditka.

"I think it's ridiculous," Ditka said. "I told him if he ever does it again he won't play. I don't understand why they do it. I just told them about it. I gave them a memo from the league and I told them about it on Friday."

Whitehead said he will not appeal the decision.

"They got me right there on the film, everybody's seen it, I did it," Whitehead said. "I apologize to everybody. It was just dumb."

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