Upshaw: Fine excessive, no prior warning

Updated: October 16, 2003, 11:32 AM ET news services

With support from the NFL Players' Association, Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp will appeal the $50,000 fine he was issued Tuesday for mistreating officials.

Warren Sapp

The NFL also threatened Sapp with a suspension if his behavior doesn't improve. Earlier this week, the six-time Pro Bowl selection called the punishment "unbelievable" and said he believed the league is trying to make an example of him.

"The appeal will be based on, first, the timeliness of it," NFLPA chief Gene Upshaw told The Washington Post. "Second, it's a first offense, and that's pretty steep for a first offense.

"We will also base [an appeal] on, there was no warning. For them to say they looked back at three films and then say, 'We looked at those three films and based on those three films, we're going to fine you $50,000,' when a first offense is $15,000, then a second offense is $25,000 and you look at the history of bumping officials and guys who actually did it sort of on purpose -- they were never that high."

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.

Players' appeals of disciplinary action are heard by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue or another league official designated by him. Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, told The Post that the league had no comment on the appeal.

Upshaw would not speculate on whether Sapp's appeal would be successful.

"We'll see, but we've got to go through it -- definitely," he told The Post.

Before the Bucs' game against the Redskins, 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.

In two earlier games this year, the NFL said Sapp used excessively abusive language to officials. Sapp has disputed that claim, too.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported earlier this month that the NFL notified Bucs GM Rich McKay that Sapp is to cease running through opponents' pregame drills, as he did before the team's Monday night home game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.