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Falcons fined, lose draft pick for pumping in fake noise

March 31, 2015 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL said Monday it has fined the Atlanta Falcons, stripped the organization of a draft pick and suspended team president Rich McKay from the league’s Competition Committee for at least three months following the team’s use of artificial crowd noise at home games.

The league said that 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.”

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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.

White was fired by the Falcons after the issue came to light.

Atlanta must also forfeit its fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft. If the team has multiple picks in that round, the highest selection will be taken away.

“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,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s vice president of football operations. “However, Mr. McKay, as the senior club executive overseeing game operations, bears some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules.”

For owner Arthur Blank, the incident has been a huge embarrassment on top of firing long-time coach Mike Smith after last season and dealing with criticism over a pricey seat-licensing plan to help fund the team’s new stadium.

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

Beginning April 1, McKay will be suspended from his position as chairman of the Competition Committee, an influential group that considers NFL rule changes. He can petition Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement no sooner than June 30.

The Falcons accepted the penalties handed down by the NFL.

“We understand the penalties imposed and their impact on our team, and we will not appeal the league’s decisions,” Blank said. “Further, we have addressed the matter internally and taken actions to ensure that something like this does not happen again.”

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Blank told The Associated Press in early February that he had seen enough of the NFL’s investigation to acknowledge wrongdoing by his club in 2013, when the Falcons were touted as a Super Bowl contender but struggled to a 4-12 record. Last season, Atlanta went into the season finale with a chance to make the playoffs in the weak NFC South, but lost to Carolina at home and finished 6-10.

The Falcons say 101 of 103 games have been sellouts since Blank bought the team in 2002. Last season, Atlanta ranked 10th among the 32 NFL teams with its average home attendance of 72,130, though there were clearly more empty seats as the team struggled.

Construction is underway for a new $1.4 billion stadium that will replace the Georgia Dome in 2017.