Is The NFL Taking Its Taunting Rules Too Far?


Is The NFL Taking Its Taunting Rules Too Far? | Sports Takes & News |

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This past week the NFL announced that taunting rules will be strictly enforced this season under a mandate given to all officials. Citing an increase league-wide in players and coaches taunting each other during games, the mandate reminded everything that two infractions will result in an ejection. Of course, when it comes to promoting the game, both the league and its broadcasting partners embrace the bad blood between rivals, but now expect players to turn it off when their adrenaline is running at its highest levels. So, I must ask: Is the NFL taking its taunting rules too far? 

As part of a five-minute video released to the league’s 32-teams, the NFL gave examples of what taunting is,  as they told everyone who will be on the sidelines during games the rules governing such actions will be strictly enforced this season. Things such as “using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, officials, or representatives of the league” and “using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams,” will result in a penalty. Two such penalties in the same game will result in a player or coach being ejected.

What the NFL didn’t address is how they will deal with what players say and do during the season on social media, including before or after heated games such as divisional matchups. It also failed to mention if networks hyping games from week to week will be discouraged from using video of previous incidents such as fights, arguments or (yes) taunting to promote upcoming broadcasts. To me, herein lies the problem … and here’s why the NFL is, once again, paying lip service to a perceived problem while profiting from it in ways no other business can.

There are reasons why for years NBC has put a Baltimore/Pittsburgh game on in primetime: The hitting was louder for on the field mics, trash talking was more intense, and regardless of who won, the games were filled with tension thanks to the rivalry between the players.

So, while the league and their broadcast partners profit from these games with “ill will between teams,” the NFL must also try to convince people they are not encouraging such unsportsmanlike behavior. The group they are trying to convince the most are the parents of young fans who see their favorite stars talking on the field one weekend and imitate the same behavior on playgrounds and in youth leagues.

Taunting rules will likely be a first quarter or first half rule only since it is doubtful that even the NFL will want any game to be decided by a taunting penalty unless the circumstances are extreme. The first warning penalty will give an officiating crew a chance to maintain control of the game, and if necessary, kick a player or coach with a second flag out too early rather than too late if they don’t get the message and continue the behavior.

Make no mistake about this, the NFL is trying to maintain its image of being a family-friendly sport in the same way Las Vegas will tell you its city is fun for mom, dad and the kids despite the adult-only activities that fill up every desert night. This is the NFL trying to tell the mainstream media that we don’t support bullying or taunting despite fans of every team saying that trash talking makes the games more fun to attend and watch.

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Is The NFL Taking Its Taunting Rules Too Far? |

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