Taunting rule puts all player post-play interactions at risk of a foul

NFL: DEC 01 Eagles at Dolphins
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Those who are policing the no-fun police are up in arms about the enhanced application of the taunting rule. It’s a social-media-friendly take, conducive to retweets and likes from those who perpetually pitch their tents in the superficial.

It ignores the fact that it’s not a new rule. And that it doesn’t prevent celebrations. It simply prohibits celebrating or demonstrating in the face of an opponent.

That said, there’s an important flaw in the process. Sometimes, a player gets in an opponent’s face for a reason other than to taunt him. Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, for example, confronted an opponent on Sunday in order to take issue with a helmet to Allen’s earhole. Allen wasn’t taunting, in any way. But it looked like taunting, so he got flagged.

Similarly, a pair of players could be exchanging genuine pleasantries after a big catch or a good tackle or whatever. The interaction could be misinterpreted as taunting.

The only way to prevent that erroneous impression is to simply get up and go back to the huddle, directing nothing at all to an opponent, ever. Maybe that’s what the NFL wants. However, some of the interactions that may look like taunting simply aren’t.

For those who are generally spouting off about the taunting rule, the better approach would be to understand what it is and what it isn’t, and to focus the NFL’s attention not on some generalized Twitter assault on the league being stodgy but on the fact that players can indeed be talking to each other without one taunting the other.

If the league can’t or won’t try to distinguish the situations of taunting from those of something other than taunting, that’s when the league needs to take a closer look at the rule — especially when players are simply talking to each other under the influence of the adrenaline that naturally flows in those moments.

40 responses to “Taunting rule puts all player post-play interactions at risk of a foul

  1. Play football. Get up. Go back to the huddle. No foul. Simple. The players complicate it. That’s not on the ref’s. That’s not on the league. Just play the game. It’s actually a great game. Best form of entertainment in the world, according to lots of people.

  2. I saw a defender just making a common gesture of excitement after making a nice play and he got flagged for taunting lol it’s a terrible rule and the refs can just throw flags whenever they need to change the outcome of the game

  3. No Fun League strikes again! It’s almost like they want to jack up the billions this ATM of a league keeps spitting out.

  4. How about we let the players police themselves? Why does anyone care about trash talk? It’s part of foobaw.

  5. This is bound to be a rule that is unfairly applied and they don’t care. They want exactly what it will end up causing (both players showing no emotion and just heading back to the huddle like robots)

  6. Old or new the rule as it was enforced yesterday is ridiculous, it’s especially bad when the NFL allows the players to make the call for a free 15 yards like Andy Dalton was allowed to yesterday.

  7. I’m hopefull that the NFL re-thinks this after week 3 because we as fans all hate it as do the players

  8. This isn’t pop warner. We’re not trying to coach kids good sportsmanship. This is professional football at the highest level. Stop letting the ad people tell you how to run a sport. It gets nasty at times. There’s trash talk at times and there are interactions that your pastor might find offensive. Get off it. If you lose the character of the player, you lose the character of the sport. Imagine if Ray Lewis was told to just shut up and play the game. Is the league better or worse for that? I believe it loses in that scenario. Stop guys from stomping on each other or from flagrant taunting but this is not beneficial to anyone whose paychecks come from, at the core, the fans.

  9. Stupid rule, the fans cannot tell most of the time what is being said. Too many lame rule changes along with the Phantom Roughing the Passer penalty.

  10. I saw a lowlight reel of the taunting penalties called around the league on Twitter. What the refs are flagging for taunting happens after almost every play. There’s no rhyme or reason to what is being called,

  11. I see a lot of folks talking for “all fans”, and it’s pretty irritating. While this new emphasis will inevitably lead to some bad calls, I’m one fan who has always heavily disliked the way some players would taunt into the faces of opponents. Some defenders of these actions claim it’s normal behavior, but it’s not, as exhibited by a number of sports in which said behavior doesn’t occur. Human beings have the ability to control their emotions better than this, and the NFL for whatever reason allowed its players for too long to channel the vestiges of the supposed line from Genghis Khan about the greatest thing being “to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes”, etc etc. We don’t need that. Celebrate, don’t taunt…it’s simple, if we only demand it to be. Making excuses for it is what makes it complicated.

  12. I think it should have to be blatant taunting to throw the flag, but I don’t know how you objectively define that. The Tashaun Gipson penalty for clapping over an opponents face definitely deserved a penalty

  13. Complete Subjectivity. Exactly what the NFL wants in order to maintain control of their desired storylines and outcomes.

  14. Eh, I bet the refs lighten up on this after a few weeks. They’ll make some examples out of players to set the time, but come playoff time there will plenty of trash talking.

  15. The NFL created this mess several seasons ago when they went more lax on the post big play/touchdown celebrations. It promotes bad sportsmanship all around and good luck trying to reel back in these players now.

  16. The ref’s are only going by what the Commissioner is telling them as a point of emphasis at teh satrt of the season. As a football fan im hoping that Goodell sees how lame this is and changes it quickly. None of those calls we’re taunting in any way let them have fun!

  17. Any rule that allows subjectivity to officials is a bad rule. They have shown us time and time again they can’t handle it. Taunting is like the old court description…..”you know it when you see it”. Except with NFL officials. The Tampa pick 6 when the guy went the last 3 yards backwards into the endzone is a great example. Obviously not taunting. NFL officials can’t wait for every and any opportunity to inject themselves into the game. They forget we watch to see the players play, not them stop play.

  18. Taunting should not be a 15 yard penalty. Make it a fine of $25,000 for the first offense and have it doulbe for every offense after.

  19. Hey nfl, why did the play clock go out during the cowboys last drive? The play clock that the coaches were using. Then a camera man blocks the view or Kellen Moore

  20. Vonn Bell was the recipient of a huge, and totally moronic taunting penalty in the Cincy vs Bears game. Made a great play to force a third and long with Chicago pinned deep in their own territory, and he just couldn’t help but get in Dalton’s face and tell him about it. Cost his team big time. It’s selfish bs, and I don’t mind seeing it out of the game.

  21. Here is a thought… A player flagged for taunting has to sit out the next meaningful play…. second offense, unsportsman like penalty

  22. Another tool for the zebras to manage the spreads and appease the bettors. That’s all there’s to it.

  23. “(both players showing no emotion and just heading back to the huddle like robots)”

    I like it that way.

  24. In just realized, you think they put this rule in to distract us from all the other HORRIBLE, GAMECHANGING calls we see in basically every game?

  25. Mike Edwards runs backwards for a few feet and draws a flag, but Lamar Jackson backflips into the end zone and nothing.

  26. Jerry rice and Michael Irvin would not be able to play in today’s NFL. That’s all you need to know about how dumb these penalties are.

  27. Lamar literally flipped into the endzone. Is that taunting?

    Such a stupid rule, and I think it will be heavily downplayed by the refs moving forward and be outright eliminated after this season.

  28. I don’t care about taunting. I care that spitting on another player doesn’t warrant an ejection or suspension or both!

  29. This is a great rule! Fans love it when referees get to make subjective, game-altering calls — especially when the infraction was after the whistle and had zero impact on the game itself!! That’s why we’re NFL fans, to see the Zebras pick winners every Sunday! /s

  30. Never knew taunting in the NFL was this much of a problem that they would make that a highlight of the off-season. I would have assumed a more immediate issue would be the blatant missed called OPI calls which have been rampant for over a decade now.

  31. As they say. Act like you have been there before. Does your mechanic act like an idiot when he fixes your car? Does the cashier at the store high five and talk smack when she checks you out. They need to grow up and stop celebrating for doing exactly what they get paid to do.

  32. I don’t mind over-flagging because it’s a natural part of setting a new standard. Players and officials alike will figure it out and then we’ll see fewer flags.

    I don’t think taunting adds a single thing of value to the sport or the fan experience. Bad behavior isn’t good just because some dumb people like it.

    Watching 22 me-first individuals each performing their own routines isn’t fun. Watching a team work together to achieve an outcome is what makes the game of football what it is.

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