NFL may formally give officials flexibility when flagging celebrations

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It became clear during the 2016 season that the NFL was reacting to intense criticism of the No-Fun-League by allowing officials to exercise discretion regarding rules that, as written, aren’t discretionary. As of next week, they may be.

As expected, the Competition Committee has taken a closer look at the issue of celebrations. Via Kevin Seifert of, the Committee will recommend giving officials “more flexibility to warn players about borderline celebrations without penalizing them for unsportsmanlike conduct.” As explained by Seifert, this would not result in a formal rule change but an emphasis to officials that the league “wants players to engage in spontaneous celebrations as long as they are not prolonged or excessive.”

That’s fine, but that approach will make it hard for coaches and players to know where the line is. Standards like not going to the ground or not using the ball as a prop or three pumps allow for predictability and certainty. A rule permitting celebrations that aren’t “prolonged or excessive” will result in seat-of-the-pants, know-it-when-you-see-it decisions that could result in different standards for different crews, with the trigger point differing by day or quarter or drive or whatever.

The best approach would be to have a clear rule as to what is and isn’t allowed, and to enforce it consistently. Allowing technical violations to go unpunished (like the snow angel exemption) in order to avoid criticism from fans and the media will serve only to create confusion. By giving flexibility to the officials to penalize or not to penalize teams for excessive celebrations, the league subtly shifts the focal point of the criticism from the league’s fun-stifling rules to the grumpy old men who want players to get off their lawns.

The officials enforce the rules; they don’t make them. If the NFL has concerns about the current celebration rules, it’s up to the NFL to craft a standard that can be enforced reliably, consistently, and properly in all cases.

29 responses to “NFL may formally give officials flexibility when flagging celebrations

  1. When Malcolm Butler had that great interception the Patriots were flagged for excessive celebration. How ridiculous. What human would not celebrate the way they did in a situation like that? Not one.

    The rule has to go.

  2. Give ’em 3 seconds to do whatever they want. Anything after 3 seconds is a flag. Problem solved.

  3. I think of all the reasons floated for the ratings drop Goodell is going to try any and all that are other than the idea that they have oversaturated with so many games. Or that Thursday night games are not that interesting.

  4. Would be nice for fans of the NFL if the PSI information that was collected during the 2015 season was publicized prior to the 2017 NFL draft.

    Otherwise it will again appear like it did during the 2016 NFL Draft that Roger Goodell and the NFL took away Patriots draft picks in an effort to fix games.

  5. The going to the ground rule is dumb.

    How hard is it to just ban: 1. Props (yes, that includes the salvation army kettle) 2. group celebrations (that are not congratulating the player by teammates) 3. leud (you get close to the edge you may fall) 4. gang/threatening signs and 5. not to exceed 15 seconds.

    That’s enough time to dance, spike, jump in the stands, or whatever not prohibited.

  6. No, no, no!! This will only lead to more controversy because one official in one game will let something slide while another official in another game will penalize something similar.
    I hate these hot dog celebrations. Always have, always will. But here’s where I am now on all this crap. Let the players do whatever they want. I couldn’t care less anymore. If they want to prance around like a bunch of ballerinas after they make a first down or score — go for it. They’re mostly a bunch of idiots, anyway.
    I just wish there was one player in the whole league who had the guts to go over and knock a guy on his butt after he scores and starts doing a celebration. Someone like DB George Teague, who went down and knocked Terrell Owens on his butt when he scored a TD for the Niners and ran to the Cowboys Star at midfield and started dancing on it. I never cheered so loudly as when I saw Teague do that. It was the best play Teague ever made.
    The NFL is all about “me”. The players care about themselves more than they care about their team winning.
    So let the idiots dance and bring in Broadway choreographers to work with them at practice so they can develop Rockettes-type precision.
    My vote is to eliminate all penalties associated with celebrating, taunting, trash talking, and anything else which has to do with putting the other guys down and making sure we make the highlight footage on Sport

  7. This shouldn’t be rocket science. No props and nothing unsuitable for a family audience. Outside of that it should just be here’s 30 seconds, have fun.

  8. Pick a time. Say 25 seconds. When the touchdown is signaled the 25 second clock starts. If the scoring team is not ready for the clock to start then (for conversion) they get flagged. Simple.

  9. Wish they would lighten on calling excessive celebration in the college game too. I agree strongly with the basic concept of nothing threatening, disgusting, etc. and nothing that goes on too long.

    Celebrations make the game more fun I think. People that hate celebrations also hate puppies.

  10. The same rules have to apply to every team. You can’t have one set of rules because it’s the Cowboys (Sorry Jerry, the salvation army kettle should draw a flag, it’s a prop) and another because the team doesn’t ratings.

    Leaving things up to official’s discretion just invites confusion and controversy. See pass interference or catch rule for reference.

  11. Let it go…..

    They should allow any celebration, so long as it is does not antagonise opponents…..

    Celebrations are a huge part of fans experiences at games and should be permitted.

  12. So under the guidelines, OBJ shouldn’t be flagged for taking his helmet off when he’s off the playing field but not yet back to the marked bench area, right?

  13. The NFL seems to be getting more and more popular across the country and around the world. Last year was another all time record for revenue. I’d say the league is in pretty good hands. Whoever has been making the decisions the past 10 years or so, keep up the great work. The best way to avoid penalties is just to play football for 60 minutes, and leave the dancing for after the game.

  14. You’ll never see another flag again. Anyone flagging a celebration will be deemed a racist. That’s a fact.

  15. And you know players will push the line every time forcing officials to act.
    Unless you been there before, then you just congratulate your team and hand the ball to the ref.

  16. It shouldn’t be too hard to draw the line between celebrating and taunting.

    Celebrating can be wacky, harmless, or ridiculous, eye-rolling, and self-aggrandizing.

    But I think we all know when it becomes “in your face” taunting, and unsportsmanlike.

    They should work on ironing out that distinction.

  17. No Fun League, indeed! Now, officials can do the following–
    1. flag teams that the game riggers want them to in order to get a desired outcome (rig the game….but now it’s even easier!)
    2. flag players who have “reputations” like Jarvis Landry–who was flagged three times last year for “unsportsman-like-conduct-taunting” for no reason.
    3. cause TD makers or intercepters to not even want to celebrate–I mean who wouldn’t celebrate getting a TD or an interception?

    But it’s the possibility that games will be rigged that bother me!

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