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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. Because equipment violations can take so many different forms, many different violations result in different results and consequences. For example, if a player in the NFL is unable to wear a piece of mandatory equipment during a down, he is given a five yard penalty. If a player uses a piece of illegal equipment, the penalty changes from just five yards, to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and results in a 15-yard loss.


An equipment violation penalty differs severely throughout different leagues. In some leagues, the penalty can result in a player being suspended. In others, the penalty may only be a fifteen yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. In most leagues, the penalty is given for a player not wearing required equipment or wearing extra equipment that is considered to be illegal. Everything from jerseys to the communications equipment used between a quarterback and coach is considered equipment. Therefore there are a lot of different variations of the penalty with some being much harsher than the others. Below is a table of a few leagues and how they handle illegal equipment during games.

Equipment ViolationFailure to wear required equipment (5 yards), Unsportsmanlike conduct for illegal equipment (15 yards)Use of illegal equipment and devices by coaches or players (15-yard penalty, and suspension of players/ coaches involved)Use of improper or illegal equipment (player sidelined for a down, until he is able to fix equipment issue)Use of hazardous equipment (15-yard penalty and ejection)n/a

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal equipment violation

The picture above illustrates the referees signal of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Because equipment violations are a form of unsportsmanlike conduct, the signal is the same as the other forms.

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 15-yard penalty.


  • A player throws his helmet down in frustration while the play is still ongoing. This results in a penalty for a failure to wear mandatory equipment, and is a 5-yard penalty.
  • More than one payer 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 15-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 given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Similar Penalties To Equipment Violation