The NFL won’t back down when it comes to its instance that players back away from their own human emotions during the game.
Via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, the NFL has sent a memo and a training video to all teams regarding the league’s ongoing emphasis on the longstanding taunting rule.
“Appropriate celebration, enthusiasm and sharing great moments with our teammates and fans is encouraged,” NFL senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson said in the video, via Seifert. “The emphasis by the NFL to discourage acts of taunting or disrespect, when you direct actions toward an opponent or his bench, will continue. Officials are instructed to call fouls on actions that demonstrate that disrespect.”
That’s fine, but the bar has shifted since the league first made taunting a point of emphasis for the second time since 2014. It’s not just the in-your-face stuff that is prohibited, but also “posturing” toward an entire bench.
“Avoid any actions where you approach an opponent or his bench and gesture, posture or otherwise demonstrate any verbal or physical form of disrespect,” Anderson said in the video, via Seifert. “Turn away. Take the opportunity to celebrate with your teammates and don’t put officials in the position of having to make a judgment about whether or not your actions rise to the level of a foul. Remove all doubt and don’t put yourself or your team at risk of a penalty.
So that’s the standard. Now, the NFL has to enforce it fairly and consistently. As explained on Thursday, another incident of “posturing” happened in Sunday’s Bills-Jets game, when Buffalo tackle Spencer Brown “postured” to the New York sideline. No flag was thrown.
It’s not just the posturing portion of the rule that’s being haphazardly enforced. Look at the second touchdown scored on Sunday by Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Under the bar the NFL has created, it should have been flagged — and it should be fined, same as the Cassius Marsh “posturing” penalty.
Apart from the wisdom of the rule (or lack thereof), it’s critical that it be enforced consistently. That’s as big of a problem, frankly, as the rule itself. It can’t be hit or miss. Taunting or “posturing” or whatever happens in plain view. The foul needs to be called when it happens or not at all.