Football Equipment Violation Penalty

Football Equipment Violation Penalty

Equipment violation penalties can happen for many reasons during a football game. The violations can occur literally from head to toe. Whether it is an unsafe helmet or illegal cleats, the penalty can be called by officials or even enforced by the league itself. Equipment violation penalties are often more serious than other penalties, as they often result in catching teams cheating.


The definition of an equipment violation penalty in the National Football League (NFL) and other leagues worldwide are very complex. Basically, players are not allowed to wear any illegal equipment and must wear all pieces of mandatory equipment. Mandatory equipment includes helmets, shoulder pads, and shoes. Illegal equipment includes uncovered hard objects like casts, adhesive or slippery substances, and detachable kicking toes.


An equipment violation penalty in the NFL is five yards for the first offense. If a player re-enters the game while still in violation of the equipment rules, they will be disqualified from the game. The rules differ based on level of play. Below is a table of a few leagues and how they handle illegal equipment during games.

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Equipment Violation: First Offense5 yards15-yard penalty, and suspension of players/ coaches involvedPlayer sidelined for a down, until he is able to fix equipment issue Offending player must sit out for three plays.
Equipment Violation: Second OffenseDisqualification15-yard penalty, and suspension of players/ coaches involvedUnsportsmanlike Conduct (15 yards and disqualification) 15-yard penalty and ejection

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal equipment violation

The referees signal an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when calling an equipment violation. Because equipment violations are a form of unsportsmanlike conduct, the signal is the same as the other forms of unsportsmanlike conduct. The referee will put his arms out, and create a T-shape with his body. This call results in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and results in a 5-yard penalty on the first offense.


  • More than one player on a team that is on the field uses electronic communication with the sideline. Because only one offensive and one defensive player can use this equipment, the penalty results in a 5-yard loss for the team and may result in further consequences.
  • A player uses illegal equipment while practicing before a game. He forgets to take the equipment off during the game, and is therefore disqualified from the game.

Similar Penalties To Equipment Violation


What is an equipment violation in football?

An equipment violation in football is when a player is wearing illegal equipment or is not wearing all mandatory equipment. If a player receives an equipment violation penalty, their team will be penalized five yards for the first offense. If the same player is found to have violated the equipment rules, they will be disqualified and must leave the game.

Can you challenge an equipment violation?

While you can’t challenge an equipment violation penalty, a coach can request that an opposing player be inspected for illegal equipment. Equipment violation penalties are not listed under the reviewable plays in the NFL rulebook. If a coach or official believes a player is wearing illegal equipment, they will alert the officials, who will inspect the player’s equipment.

Can you get fined for an equipment violation?

Many violations in the NFL come with not only on-field penalties, but also monetary fines, and certain equipment violations do carry fines in addition to a penalty. In 2022, two types of equipment violations which the NFL imposed fines for are Unapproved Visor Tint or Lack of Brand Marks and Unauthorized Logo/Branding or Intellectual Property. Unapproved Visor Tint or Lack of Brand Marks carried a $5,305 fine for the first offense and a $10,609 fine for the second. Unauthorized Logo/Branding or Intellectual Property carried a $10,609 fine for the first offense and a $21,218 fine for the second.