NFL going too harsh on taunting


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NFL officials in the past have been reluctant on throwing the yellow penalty flag for taunting, but a emphasis on the penalty in 2021 could be taking away from the game.

Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

What a surprise, the NFL is trying to suck more fun out of football. 

Before the start of the 2021 season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his competition committee made sure that officials would emphasize stopping players from taunting one another, according to a Sept. 12 Sporting News article.

Taunting has always been a penalty in the NFL rulebooks but is rarely used as many understand the competitive nature of the game. Only 10 taunting penalties were handed out during the entire 2020 season, according to a Sept. 21 Yahoo Sports article.

The league classifies taunting as “baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.” This sounds very vague, and we will get into that later.

Issues with taunting have started to arise recently as Kansas City Chiefs superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill is famous for putting up two fingers to say “deuces” to opponents as he speeds into the endzone.

During Super Bowl LV in February, Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Antoine Winfield Jr. got in Hill’s face and put up the deuces during the final minutes of the blowout, causing much anger in the league office.

This may have been the catalyst for the emphasis in the rules, as the league is hoping that by curbing taunting, they can also cut down on the number of fights and skirmishes that players get into during the game.

There have been a total of 13 taunting penalties handed out by officials since the start of the 2021 season, ranging from cornerbacks flexing after a big hit to wide receivers pointing for a first down they have just gained.

The most ridiculous of the taunting calls thus far goes to Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller who was flagged for spiking the ball after gaining a first down.

Fans and pundits alike have been saying since the start of week one, taunting calls are very subjective, and they take the emotion out of football.

There is a clear difference between a player who has just made a big play and wants to celebrate and a player who tries to get in others’ faces to taunt. The officials just can’t differentiate that.

It was Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio who said it best in a Sep. 20 NBC Sports article.

“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,” Florio said. “Especially when players are simply talking to each other under the influence of the adrenaline that naturally flows in those moments.”

Do better in the NFL. It’s not rocket science. It’s football.