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NFL fines Bears DE Cassius Marsh for controversial taunting penalty

The NFL is standing behind Monday night's controversial taunting call against Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh -- and Marsh's next paycheck will be lighter as a result.

The league informed Marsh on Friday he's being fined $5,972 for unsportsmanlike conduct, a source told

Marsh plans to appeal in hopes of getting the fine rescinded.

The fine letter references Section 3, Article 1 (c) the NFL rulebook, which specifically prohibits "using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams."

Taunting has been a point of emphasis all season, spearheaded by the NFL competition committee and coaches' subcommittee as a way to improve sportsmanship. Entering Week 9, officials had thrown 35 flags for taunting in 136 games.

Referee Tony Corrente threw the flag on Marsh, who did his normal karate-kick celebration after a sack in the fourth quarter, then strutted a half-dozen steps toward the Steelers sideline. Marsh didn't say anything, but the staredown of the Pittsburgh bench was enough for Corrente to pull out his flag -- wiping out a critical third-down stop in a game the Bears ended up losing, 29-27.

Before Corrente threw the flag, there also was brief contact between him and Marsh, who told reporters after the game that the veteran referee "hip-checked" him on his way back to the sideline. Corrente told a pool reporter the contact didn't contribute to the call. Rather, Corrente said: "I saw the player, after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them."

The NFL has declined comment on the play and the contact between the two. But NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Perry Fewell pointed out in a video posted to football operations department's Twitter account that Marsh "takes several steps towards the Pittsburgh bench, posturing towards their sideline" -- confirmation, along with Marsh's fine, that the league believes it was the right call.

And despite public complaints, there figure to be more to come.