Suspicious hand gestures during celebratory touchdown dances have NFL officials going to the videotape.
The league has hired experts to review various game tapes and identify any hand signals of street gangs, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. While the league has always dissuaded players against the use of such symbols, warnings were strengthened by the recent shooting death of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams involving known gang members.
On April 28, Paul Pierce of the NBA’s Boston Celtics was fined $25,000 for his use of “menacing gestures” toward the Atlanta Hawks bench during a game in April. Pierce denied that he was using gang signs, telling the Associated Press that his foundation is committed to keeping kids away from gangs.
Nonetheless, the episode raised concerns in the NFL.
"We were always suspicious that (gang-related hand signals) might be happening," Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, told The L.A. Times. "But the Paul Pierce thing is what brought it to light. When he was fined... that's when we said we need to take a look at it and see if we need to be aware of it."
League officials declined to comment on what disciplinary action would be taken against offenders, but “it will be dealt with harshly,” Pereira said.