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Wednesday, November 24, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NFL -- Throat-Slash Taunt: Cut It Out -- League Threatens Fines, Penalties For Use Of Gesture

Seattle Times News Services

NEW YORK - The NFL cracked down on the throat-slash gesture, threatening fines and penalties for an increasingly popular taunt that the league said depicted "an unacceptable act of violence."

A letter was sent yesterday to all 31 teams to ban 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.

The gesture has been 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 the Seahawks' Ricky Watters.

"I like to come up with something new every week," said Johnson, who did it in full view of the "Monday Night Football" cameras last week. "I just try to be original."

He'll have to be more original and less objectionable from now on, unless he wants to incur a 15-yard penalty and a fine. The league made that clear.

"We know of no interpretation of this act by which it would not be considered threatening or insulting," wrote George Young, the league's vice president for football operations in the letter. "In fact, it appears to depict an unacceptable act of violence."

The gesture has been around in sports for a while but it has been occurring with increasing frequency this season in the NFL.

After leading a game-winning drive earlier this season in Cleveland, Cincinnati rookie quarterback Akili Smith pounded his chest at the Browns' bench and taunted the fans in the Dawg Pound by making the throat-slash gesture.

In the NBA two seasons ago, Chris Childs of the New York Knicks and Eric Murdock, then of the Miami Heat, exchanged the gestures during a playoff series. The NBA makes any player who taunts subject to a technical foul and "lewd or objectionable behavior" subject to fine and/or suspension.

The NHL similarly assesses penalties for gross misconduct by players. "We are not big on taunts," spokesman Frank Brown said.

Major league baseball doesn't have a policy regarding taunting. Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the issue has not been a problem.

The NFL's letter specifically included the throat-cutting gesture in its taunting policy, although the league already been handing out penalties under the existing rules.

"It's unnecessary," Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks' coach and general manager, said after Watters slashed his throat toward fans in Kansas City on Sunday.

"We want to be known as a classy group and the players understand that. We'll fix that," he said.

NOTES

-- Police issued an arrest warrant for Oakland Raider Charles Woodson for allegedly hitting a woman in the face with a snowball after Bronco fans pelted the Raiders with snowballs in Monday night's game. Police said they cited 13 people for throwing snowballs. They also said they arrested eight people for creating a disturbance and threw 50 fans out of the stadium. Six people were detained for drunkenness.

One man was arrested for hitting Raider Lincoln Kennedy in the head with a snowball after the game, which ended with the Broncos beating the Raiders 27-21 in overtime after Denver was blanketed with snow. "I do know a lot of people were concerned for their own safety late in that ballgame," Raider Coach Jon Gruden said. "It was an ugly scene, dangerous. It was target shooting, that's what it was like."

Several Raiders sought an apology from Bronco officials and Gruden said he expected a league investigation. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson said a snowball thrown near him contained a battery.

Denver police said an arrest warrant for Woodson was in the works and was likely to be issued today charging him with misdemeanor assault and throwing objects, violations that carry a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

-- Lawrence Phillips' stormy tenure with the San Francisco 49ers ended when the team waived him. Phillips was still serving a three-game suspension for defying the coaching staff at the time of his release. Team officials said soon after imposing the suspension on Nov. 12 that Phillips, who has struck out with three NFL teams because of a string of personality clashes and run-ins with the law, would not play again for the 49ers.

Meanwhile, Phillips' agent said earlier Tuesday a grievance has been filed seeking to overturn the suspension. After Phillips was waived, agent Mitch Frankel did not respond to messages left on his pager.

-- Philadelphia placed fullback Kevin Turner on the injured reserve list today and re-signed wide receiver Dietrich Jells.

-- Miami quarterback Dan Marino said he has a "good chance" of playing tomorrow against Dallas. Coach Jimmy Johnson won't make a decision until game time. -- Oakland free safety Eric Turner will be out two to three weeks with a strained calf muscle after aggravating it in Monday's game.

-- Cleveland defensive tackle John Jurkovic was placed on the injured list and will be sidelined for the rest of the season after severely pulling his right hamstring against Carolina.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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