In 2015, the NFL has made in-game fighting a point of emphasis. (In-practice fighting is apparently still OK.) But there’s a problem with the communication of the new approach, as demonstrated by the video that explains the situation to players.
The clip has been posted by executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent on Twitter. Buried among the vast array of responses that only Twitter can generate is a great point: The video sends a mixed signal to players regarding the accepted behavior when a fight breaks out.
“Don’t fight, and if a fight breaks out involving other players, stay away,” the narrator says. “Any active participant in a fight will be penalized. Flagrant conduct will result in ejections, and any player that does not immediately leave the fight area will be subject to a fine. Peacemaking won’t be accepted as an excuse for entering the area. The best thing to do is get yourself and your teammates out of a fight area.” (Emphasis added.)
So where’s the line between “peacemaking” that won’t be accepted as an excuse for entering a fight area and the desired behavior of “get[ting] yourself and your teammates out of a fight area”? It’s the kind of thing that could be decided on a case-by-case basis, with no clear, objective standard for determining the difference. And it will create the impression that the NFL is making the rules up as it goes.
The better advice for players would be to immediately leave the fight area, with no mention of teammates. Each player should have an independent obligation to exit the fight area and/or to not enter it, and nothing more. By urging players to try to get teammates out of a fight area, the NFL could be encouraging players to do the very thing for which they could be disciplined.