We have seen many instances of the NFL fining players for giving away the footballs to fans. Although we could find nothing concrete in the NFL rulebook, the reasons most cited for fining the players was Unsportsmanlike Conduct and Delay of Game.
Excessive celebrations in the end zone are considered Unsportsmanlike Conduct in the NFL, and in some cases, they extend that to include giving away the ball. Other actions that can be considered Unsportsmanlike Conduct by the referees are “abusive or threatening language, using baiting or taunting acts or words, and possession or use of foreign or extraneous objects that are not part of the uniform or using the ball as a prop.”
The NFL office was especially “Grinchy” this December as they fined six New Orleans Saints’ players for wearing red and green tape during a game Christmas week. The six players were Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter and Pierre Thomas. Thomas was also fined an additional $7,500 for excessive celebration after a touchdown (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) after he put a bow on a ball and gave it to a fan in the stands.
The good news, though, is that the money that the NFL collects in fines gets distributed through the NFL Foundation to different charitable organizations.