NFL Taunting Enforcement Continues To Draws Critiques


By BestOdds Analyst | October 13, 2021, 4:41 pm
Antoine Winfield Jr. Taunting Tyreek Hill with a Peace Sign

Despite significant criticisms on the recent emphasis on the taunting rule within the NFL, the league continues to stand behind its decision.

They believe players will slowly but surely adjust to this new policy through the season, and it is so far going as planned.

This year when announcing the NFL rule change proposals, Rich McKay (chairman) had specifically emphasized two points when speaking on existing rules.

First was the focus on lowering helmets when initiating contact (which we have seen before). And the second was taunting.

Defined, taunting is using “baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.” McKay further noted this does not include celebrations but rather any targeted exchange from player to player.

What Does Taunting Look Like?

It really could be anything from calling a player names, getting in a player’s face or space, making certain gestures after beating a player on a play or even turning around to face a player while running free for a touchdown.

Anytime a player acts to elicit a particular response that may escalate into a confrontation can be called by a ref as a taunting foul.

Who Cares About Taunting?

Well, it’s evidently the ones who make the rules, and that would be coaches and owners.

John Mara (NY Giants owner and a member of the competition committee) stated, “We get sick and tired of the taunting … [we want] the players to have fun [but] there’s always a fine line.”

Many coaches concurred with his statement as well.

Frank Reich (HC for the Colts) noted how he loves the fire in this competition, and he wants to destroy his opponents, but “taunting … doesn’t look good on anybody.” He maintains, “it’s not a good look … [and] not a good thing for young kids to see.”

Why Now?

Over the past two seasons, this rule hasn’t been enforced much. In 2019, we saw nine calls, and in 2020 a total of 11. In comparison, there was an average of 30 per season from 2013-2018.

What’s important here for the coaches and owners is that the dip in calls did not correlate to a fall in actual cases of taunting. The taunting continued; it was just not called as frequently.

This enforcement didn’t just come out of nowhere, as all players were shown a video during training camp provided by the league.

The video explained the new rules and what would be emphasized in taunting calls. However, they may not have been told how nitpicky the referees may be.

And that’s where they’re receiving criticisms.

Not only are fans upset with these rules, but the NFL Players Association wasn’t too pleased either. In a recent tweet, they stated their position; “For those who aren’t a fan of the new taunting rule, we aren’t either.”

The president of the association, JC Tretter, shared his thoughts in a blog post blaming “the people who push for rules like this time and time again…” rather than the player or the refs. The players are simply showing emotion, and the refs are just doing their jobs, in his opinion.

Jamal Adams (Seahawks safety) noted how his team would be playing smarter to avoid penalties. He further stated that the league is “taking passion and emotions out of the game of football.”

Why Does This Matter?

Now you may say, what’s that big deal? Why don’t these players just take the foul and move on?

Well, for those of you who are new to football, penalized players can be fined as well.

The first offense starts at $10,300 and $15,540 for the second. There is an opportunity to appeal, and occasionally these fines are reduced based on the circumstances.

But that’s a hefty chunk of money just for name-calling your competitor on the field—especially when, a lot of the time, the other team will be taunting you as well. Let’s remember it takes two to tango.

What Will Happen Now?

Of course, fans will do what fans do and claim the league has ruined the game. But most likely, these taunting calls will decrease as the season continues. Whether that means the actual instances will decrease is what the league is hoping to see this year.

As viewers, we’ll all just have to tune in and see whether the players will be taking this enforcement seriously or if the refs will just decrease the calls.

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