Report: NFL has “no immediate plans” to modify enforcement of the taunting rule

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For the second time since 2014, the NFL has made its longstanding taunting rule a point of emphasis. The NFL won’t be de-emphasizing that any time soon.

Via Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the league has “no immediate plans” to instruct the Competition Committee to modify the enforcement of the rule.

Per Maske, the league believes that the application of the rule is “going as planned,” and that “players will adjust.”

The problems have arisen not from the decision to ask officials to actually enforce the rule as written but from the failure of the league to properly explain the situation before news emerged of the league once again telling the officials to enforce the rule. Too many people who are griping about the rule refuse to understand what it does and doesn’t prohibit.

It doesn’t prohibit celebration. It does prohibit celebrating in the face of an opponent. The goal is to prevent the player on the wrong end of the taunting from looking for ways to settle the score later, maybe with a cheap shot or a late hit. Which could then escalate things, eventually leading to a brouhaha.

Washington coach Ron Rivera and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin both explained the situation extremely well during Tuesday press conferences. Via Maske, Patriots coach Bill Belichick provided his own viewpoint during a Monday spot on WEEI.

“In general, I don’t think there’s a place for taunting in the game,” Belichick said. “I think that’s poor sportsmanship and it leads to other things. It leads to retaliation. And then where do you draw the line? And so I think the whole idea of the rule is to kind of nip it in the bud and not let it get started. And I’m in favor of that.”

Players can still celebrate. In 2017, the so-called No Fun League dramatically relaxed the rules regarding celebrations. But the league doesn’t want celebrations to be directed at an opponent, to prevent the kind of tit-for-tat that could trigger a full-blown fracas that could expose players to potential injury.

It’s that simple. And those with platforms or influence should resist the temptation to throw red meat to the least common denominator crowd (“IT’S RUINING THE GAME!“) and understand what the league is trying to achieve.

And, yes, these are things the league should have been saying and doing from a P.R. perspective in May, June, or July. It’s not something that the league should simply hope that some in the media will properly explain at a time when the outcry has become an avalanche.

20 responses to “Report: NFL has “no immediate plans” to modify enforcement of the taunting rule

  1. As they shouldnt. Why would they want to alter it now that they changed it? These players are PROFESSIONALS. You dont see professionals getting in others faces to fight or disrespecting their peers with bad conduct. Good for the NFL to hold these pro’s to a higher standard.

  2. Has there ever been a “point of emphasis” by the league officiating that wasn’t a total disaster and eventually reversed?

  3. Of course they have no plans. They’ll just quietly stop calling it like that stupid extreme roughing the passer call about five years ago.

  4. Taunting is immature, childish, pathetic. Always has been. The key is going to be the official clearly seeing the difference (and it shouldn’t be too hard) between celebration and taunting. Let them celebrate – that’s fun! Taunting is not fun – it’s just someone being an asshat.

  5. ztoa says:
    September 22, 2021 at 11:02 am

    This rule is as stupid as it can be, it basically prohibits players to be happy.

    So, let me get this straight… your thoughts are:
    Only by getting into the face of an opponent and pointing, gesturing, chest pounding, mocking or otherwise demeaning a player you just beat in some way can a professional athlete be truly “happy”?

    OK. Got it.

  6. ztoa says:

    September 22, 2021 at 11:02 am

    This rule is as stupid as it can be, it basically prohibits players to be happy.
    ^^ this
    Many of the taunting calls I’ve seen were spinning the football towards an opponents sideline. The rare in your face or stand over a person isn’t what is called.

  7. Should the league that doesn’t understand Ideal Gas law really be in the business of legislating emotions? I really miss the NFL of old.

  8. The rule was put in place so the refs can influence the game script and keep things as close as possible for as long as possible. NFL doesn’t want blow outs and people turning off the TV early. They want every game down to the wire for max viewership. Make a crucial 3rd down stop and celebrate it? Too bad, that’s taunting, the offense stays on the field to try and keep the game close for viewership. It’s pretty transparent.

  9. In the same game I saw a taunting call against a reliever for signaling 1st down in front of a defender but none was called when a DB was flexing over a QB that was just stacked.

    Giving the already lousy refs the abilty to make judgment calls is a terrible idea.

  10. I’d be happy if it led to pretty much all gesturing (other than pre-arrangned post TD team celebrations) getting banned/stopped.

    It is SO immature and annoying.

    I hate it when ANY player does it, including my own team.

    The stupid 1st down signal by a receiver every time he catches a pass for a first down.
    So, childish and “look at me”.

  11. “Has there ever been a “point of emphasis” by the league officiating that wasn’t a total disaster and eventually reversed?”

    The entire idea is bizarre in that it’s an admission there are either too many rules to the degree refs forget about some of them or that they’re so vague they don’t know how to enforce them. And they find different examples of this every single year. They should be clarifying and simplifying the rule book to fix these long term but instead they make a show of stepping up enforcement for a few months before letting it all slide back to how it was before.

  12. They should create a rule for players celebrating and showboating after a big play when their team is being crushed and still down by 20 points or more

  13. For all those that want to allow taunting, they should also allow retaliation by the taunted player. This would put an end to all the childish antics we see every week.

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