The NFL has levied a fine against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott was fined $25,000 for postgame comments made in the wake of an NFL wild-card loss to the San Francisco 49ers, a person with knowledge of the fine confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly disclose the fine.
The outcome seemed inevitable after Prescott encouraged fans who threw debris at officials — and doubled down on the remarks, rather than walking them back, Sunday night.
The quarterback was frustrated following a 23-17 loss that ended in a game official colliding with him on a messy attempt to spot the ball. Prescott and the Cowboys thought one more prayer of a play remained. Instead, officials ruled the game — and the Cowboys’ season — over after a quarterback draw that began with 14 seconds left netted 17 yards but bled too much time.
Fans began throwing debris, including beer and water bottles, on the field. Officials raced toward a tunnel exit. Prescott was initially told fans hurled trash at players, as defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had needed his helmet to deflect a bottle. Prescott said he hadn’t seen that, but he condemned the gesture.
“That’s sad,” Prescott said. “I mean you’re talking about a team, you’re talking about men who come out each and every day of their lives and give everything to this sport, give everything to this game of football. Nobody wants to succeed more than we want to succeed.
“I understand fans and the word ‘fan’ for fanatic. I get that too. But to know everything we put into this day in and day out, try our hardest, nobody comes into the game wanting or expecting to lose. For people to react that way when you’re supposed to be a supporter and be with us through thick and thin, that’s tough.”
Then a reporter told Prescott that fans were actually aiming at the officiating crew.
“Credit to them then,” Prescott said. “Yeah, credit to them.”
Prescott did not walk back the remark when a reporter asked him to clarify: Did he mean to encourage fans who threw debris? Was he that upset with the officiating?
“Yeah,” Prescott said. “If they weren’t at us, and if the fans felt the same way as us and that’s what they were doing it for, yeah I guess that’s why the refs took off and got out of there so fast. I think everybody is upset with the way that this thing played out. As I said, I’m sure a fan would be the same. Feel the same way we do.”
Tuesday, the NBA referees association issued a statement calling for accountability.
“The NBRA condemns the comments by Dak Prescott condoning violence against game officials,” the association tweeted. “As an NFL leader, he should know better. We encourage the NFL to take action to discourage this deplorable behavior in the future.”
Prescott apologized three hours later.
“I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the officials after the game on Sunday,” Prescott wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday. “I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair.
“I hold the NFL Officials in the highest regard and have always respected their professionalism and the difficulty of their jobs. The safety of everyone who attends a game or participates on the field of a sporting event is a very serious matter.
“That was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry.”
‘Super Bowl or nothing’: Cowboys’ offseason priorities after disappointing playoff exit
NFL mock draft: Three QBs land in top 20 picks of first round
Prescott signed a mega-extension with the Cowboys last March, a $160 million deal that will keep him in Dallas through at least 2024. He returned from a 2020 season-ending gruesome ankle injury to lead the Cowboys to a 12-5 record and an NFC East title. Dallas was the lone team to lose at home in the wild-card weekend.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter: @JoriEpstein