New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn has been fined $30,000 by the NFL for making a choreographed cell-phone call in the end zone to celebrate a touchdown.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the amount of the fine, which was issued Tuesday. Horn's agent, Ralph Vitolo, said the player will appeal. "Fining him is one thing, but to me that's very excessive. This is not a murder case," Vitolo said. Return specialist Michael Lewis was fined $5,000 for helping orchestrate the stunt, and Horn told Vitolo that he would pay that fine. After catching the second of four touchdown passes in a 45-7 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, Horn was handed a phone by Lewis, who pulled it out from under the padding used to protect the goal post. Horn was still wearing his helmet when he punched in numbers, put the phone to the earhole and spoke into it for a few seconds. "Would I take it back? No, no. I knew exactly what I was doing," Horn said after the game. Saints coach Jim Haslett called the player's action "selfish." "Do I think the fine is excessive? Yeah," Haslett said. "But I don't like what he did because it hurt our football team. That's what bothers me." The Saints were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for the stunt. NFL officials had considered suspending Horn for two games, but Saints owner Tom Benson intervened on Horn's behalf, The Times-Picayune reported. If Horn had been suspended, he would have forfeited about $82,000 of his $700,000 base salary and been out of the Saints' final two regular season games against Jacksonville and Dallas. Horn was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct for the second time this season and the seventh time since 2000, Aiello said. "I don't have a whole lot of empathy for Joe, to be honest with you," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "The league has made it clear that it won't tolerate that kind of behavior, and he went ahead and did it anyway." After San Francisco's Terrell Owens pulled a pen out of his sock and autographed a football after scoring a touchdown in a game, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue sent a memo to all teams warning that such stunts would be punished. Also Tuesday, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL for retrieving a sign from behind a snowdrift and holding it up after a 10-yard touchdown catch Sunday. Johnson's sign read: "Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)