The NFL is aggressively emphasizing the prohibition on taunting this year. Except when it isn’t.
On Sunday against the Titans, Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne capped an impressive 41-yard catch and run for a touchdown by flashing a peace sign at cornerback Buster Skrine just before entering the end zone. The officials didn’t see it. If they did, they didn’t flag it.
The league office, which surely saw it, didn’t fine Bourne for the gesture.
And so the entire taunting thing becomes even more confusing and inconsistent. Several weeks ago, Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh received both a flag and a five-figure fine for impermissible posturing at the opposing sideline. Bourne, who clearly (albeit temporarily) did what the league wants players to not do was neither flagged nor fined.
The rule is bad. The inconsistent application of it is worse. Although the smartest approach continues to be, as Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said this week, to just do nothing at all other than give the ball to the closest official, the supposedly black-and-white, know-it-when-you-see-it prohibition includes a gray era that results in outcomes that can’t be reconciled.