Can You Keep an NFL Football Thrown into the Stands?

NFL Football Thrown into the Stands

The thrill of catching a game-used ball thrown into the stands by an NFL player is an unforgettable experience for any fan. The excitement and memorabilia value of such a souvenir are undeniable. However, there are specific rules governing whether or not fans can keep balls thrown into the stands during NFL games.

Understanding the NFL Rule

The NFL has a clear rule prohibiting players from throwing or kicking game-used balls into the stands. This regulation exists for several crucial reasons:

Safety Concerns: A thrown or kicked ball can pose a safety hazard to fans, especially in crowded areas. The hard, fast-moving ball could cause injury if it hits someone in the head or other vulnerable areas.

Liability Issues: The NFL and stadium owners could face legal liability if a fan is injured by a thrown or kicked ball. This includes the potential for lawsuits and financial settlements.

Maintaining Game Integrity: The rule helps to ensure the integrity of the game by preventing players from influencing the outcome by intentionally throwing balls into the stands.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the general rule forbids players from throwing or kicking balls into the stands, there are a few exceptions:

Souvenir Footballs: Occasionally, players may be given specific footballs to hand out to fans. These are typically marked as souvenirs and are not considered game-used balls.

Charitable Initiatives and Fundraising Events: Some teams or stadiums may organize events where balls are thrown into the stands for charitable purposes. In these cases, the balls are typically donated to the charity and the fans are allowed to keep them.

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Consequences of Violating the Rule

Violators of the NFL’s rule on throwing or kicking balls into the stands face potential consequences:

Fines for Players: Players who throw or kick balls into the stands are subject to fines from the NFL. The current fine is $5,250 per infraction.

Ejection from the Stadium for Fans: Fans who refuse to return balls thrown or kicked into the stands by players may be ejected from the stadium. This could result in missed game action and the loss of their ticket money.

Legal Implications for Fans: Fans who retain possession of thrown or kicked balls may face legal repercussions. The NFL could pursue legal action to reclaim the balls, and fans could also face charges for theft or possession of stolen property.

Fan Perspective and Souvenir Value

The desire to keep a game-used ball is understandable. These balls hold both financial and sentimental value, as they represent a special moment in the game and connect fans to their favorite players. However, it’s important to respect the NFL’s rules and safety concerns.

Alternative Ways to Obtain NFL Football Souvenirs

There are several alternative ways to obtain NFL football souvenirs without breaking the rules:

Purchasing Official Game-Used Balls: Official game-used balls can be purchased through authorized retailers or auctions. These balls are typically certified and come with documentation proving their authenticity.

Participating in Contests and Giveaways: Many teams and sponsors organize contests and giveaways where fans can win game-used balls. These opportunities often involve social media engagement, trivia challenges, or other creative activities.

Attending Fan Events and Memorabilia Stores: Some teams have fan events and memorabilia stores where fans can purchase game-used balls directly from the team. These stores may also offer other NFL collectibles and memorabilia.


The NFL’s rule on throwing or kicking balls into the stands is a necessary measure to ensure safety, fairness, and game integrity. While fans may feel disappointed about not being able to keep these souvenirs, there are several alternative ways to acquire NFL memorabilia without violating the rules. By respecting the rules and supporting authorized methods of obtaining souvenirs, fans can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.


What happens if a player intentionally throws a ball into the stands?

A player who intentionally throws or kicks a game-used ball into the stands will be subject to a fine of $5,250. The league takes this rule seriously to deter players from endangering fans and maintaining game integrity.

Can fans keep a ball if it goes into the stands during a celebration?

Even if a ball goes into the stands during a celebration, it is still considered a game-used ball and cannot be kept by fans. Players are expected to cooperate with officials and return the ball to the field.

What is the difference between a game-used ball and a souvenir ball?

A game-used ball is any ball that has been used in an official NFL game, regardless of whether it has been thrown or kicked into the stands. A souvenir ball is a special ball that is given to fans by players, teams, or sponsors as a memento. Souvenir balls are typically marked as such and are not considered game-used.

What if a fan catches a ball that is thrown or kicked into the stands by a player and refuses to return it?

If a fan catches a ball thrown or kicked into the stands and refuses to return it, they may be subject to ejection from the stadium and could face legal action from the NFL. In some cases, fans have even been charged with theft or possession of stolen property.

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