NFL Taunting: Why is it a problem?

By Eli Glenn    

Staff Writer

Image Source: USA Today

A big topic of conversation in football this year was the National Football League’s new rules regarding taunting penalties. The NFL defines taunting as “…baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.”

There have been cases of taunting in the past in the National Football League, like when Tyreek Hill threw up the peace sign at the Tampa Bay Bucs defense while running into the end zone for a 75 yard pass from Patrick Mahomes.

For this small act he was fined almost $8,000. He then did the same thing against the Denver Broncos and was fined $10,000. All of these fines were before the NFL taunting rule that in addition to the fine, there will be a 15 yard penalty for players.

One big controversy during the pre-season this year happened during a Colts and Panthers game, where a practice squad running back for the Panthers steamrolled the entire defense and flexed after the play.

For this he received a taunting penalty right after the play. The big problem with these calls is they are very inconsistent. 

A situation where a taunting flag should have been thrown is when Aaron Rodgers scored a rushing touchdown during the Chicago Bears vs. Greenbay Packers game on October 17th. After Aaron Rodgers ran into the endzone he took a tumble, got up, and then pretended to rip his jersey apart. Then he got up and screamed to the crowd of Chicago Bears fans, “I own you … I still own you!” He yelled that rapidly and loudly for everyone to hear.

People everywhere were outraged that there was no call for something like that. It was a fairly obvious scene of taunting and even the cameras picked it up. From this “no call,” fans are thinking that there may be some bias in regards to this rule. The Greenbay Packers went on to win that game 24-14.

Another case in which a taunting penalty was given out and not at all justified was in the New York Giants vs Kansas City Chiefs game in the fourth quarter. The game was tied 17-17. The giants had the ball and Eli Penny, the fullback, had a 16 yard run.

After the play had ended, Eli Penny merely flipped the football and pointed forward, signaling a first down (something that isn’t uncommon after players get a first down). Then the refs threw the flag and the New York Giants drive ended shortly after, forcing them to punt.

The Kansas City Chiefs went on to win the game with a field goal 20-17. It is very obvious that this call was one of the main reasons the New York Giants lost the football game. This is yet another example of possible bias or at least inconsistency that the referees had. 

The most outrageous example of this is the Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. The Bears had 11 calls and a total of 110 yards of penalties, while the Steelers had 2 for 15 yards. The biggest instance of taunting in this game was when Cassius Marsh (Bears OLB) had a huge sack on 3rd and 8.

After the play had ended, he did a celebration in which he was staring at the Bears sideline and happened to be in front of one of the Steelers players, and the flag was thrown. Another controversial call was when the referee hip-checked Cassius Marsh and called a penalty on Marsh. It was very obvious that the reason the Bears lost the game was because of these botched calls.

The big problem with this new rule is the call is very opinion-based, and has to do with the ref watching very closely after the game and hearing what the players do.

The call also has to do with the intention of the player who committed the penalty, and it’s very hard for the referees to determine that intention. This rule can be a good thing when stopping heavy amounts of unsportsmanlike conduct, but celebrating after a play should not be penalized.

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