Sapp fined $50,000 by NFL

Updated: October 14, 2003, 9:38 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- The NFL fined Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp $50,000 on Tuesday for mistreating officials and threatened him with a suspension if his behavior doesn't improve.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection called the action "unbelievable" and said he feels the league is trying to make an example of him.

"That's all this is about," Sapp said in a telephone interview. "In my nine years in this league, no one's been fined for verbally abusing officials. It's unprecedented."

Sapp hasn't decided if he'll appeal.

"Who do I appeal to?" the All-Pro tackle asked. "We're already at the highest level, the commissioner's office."

NFL director of game operations Peter Hadhazy issued the fine after reviewing Sapp's conduct in three games. Hadhazy said any further misconduct will result in a suspension of at least one game.

Before last Sunday's game against Washington, Sapp bumped into an official as he entered the field during pregame warmups.

"There was absolutely no need for you to do so," Hadhazy stated in a letter to Sapp. "To the contrary, it is apparent that you deliberately made contact with the official. ... This misconduct occurred even though you had been strongly advised by the Buccaneers' management only days before to refrain from taking actions during the pregame warmups that were disruptive to your opponents, disrespectful to the game officials, and in violation of league rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct."

Sapp said he "barely brushed" the official, who turned in his direction to begin moving up the sideline.

"It wasn't intentional. I tried to avoid him," Sapp said. "The ref didn't think anything of it because he knew -- just like I knew -- that I didn't try to bump him."

In two earlier games this year, the NFL said Sapp used excessively abusive language to officials.

"Your continuing disrespectful and intimidating conduct has no place in the game," Hadhazy wrote. "You have repeatedly abused game officials and ignored their directions and authority in at least three of the Buccaneers' games this season."

Sapp disputed that claim, too.

"They're going to fine me for something that happened a month ago? If I verbally abused somebody so bad, you would think there would have been a warning or something," Sapp said. "I just want to see the report and what I supposedly said."

The tackle took exception to the NFL's contention that he ignored directions and verbally abused game officials on Oct. 6 after they tried to warn him against disrupting the Indianapolis Colts' pregame routine.

The league pointed out that the incident before the Indianapolis game occurred three weeks after Sapp was penalized for verbal abuse of an official during Tampa Bay's 12-9 loss to Carolina on Sept. 14.

"I didn't say a word in the Indianapolis game. I just kept walking. ... I want to know how much that cost me. And how much did the Carolina game cost me," Sapp said, adding that the league did not provide a breakdown.

The unsportsmanslike conduct penalty Sapp drew against Carolina occurred on a play in which the Bucs were using him as a tight end on offense.

The flag was thrown at the end of the play when Sapp said he was trying to draw attention to one of the Panthers grabbing Mike Alstott's face mask when the fullback was tackled after a short gain.

"You can see me (on replays) pointing at my teammate's face mask," Sapp said. "It's just unbelievable."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index