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The NFL’s Taunting Crackdown Is Peak ‘No Fun League’

In Wednesday’s Hot Clicks: the lame message the NFL sent to its officials, Trea Turner’s mind-blowing slide and more.

Let the guys play

NFL players are going to have to be careful this year with where they direct their excitement on the field, otherwise they might be ejected or even suspended.

Every year, the NFL passes down “points of emphasis” to its officials. These aren’t rule changes as much as rule reminders, telling officials what they should be paying special attention to and how rules should be applied. Usually fans don’t have to pay attention to these things, but who can forget the disastrous focus on holding penalties that rendered games early in the 2019 season nearly unwatchable?

The league released its annual rule changes and points of emphasis video Tuesday, explaining to players boring things like minor tweaks to the kickoff formation and illegal forward pass rules. It also says that strictly enforcing the rule against taunting will be a point of emphasis this season.

“The NFL Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said in the video. “We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule, and not representative of the respect to opponents and others on the field. Game officials have been instructed to strictly enforce the taunting rules, and players and coaches are reminded that two taunting penalties committed by an individual player will result in automatic disqualification. In addition, the taunting player may be fined and/or suspended depending on the severity of the actions.”

While it’s certainly reasonable to police taunting in some way so that a game doesn’t devolve into a series of escalating personal attacks, are the examples in the league’s video really so egregious? The first one shows Parris Campbell flexing in the face of Myles Jack as if to say, “Yeah, you’re 40 pounds heavier than me, but that hit was nothing.” The second is a simple spike by Jarvis Landry in the face of Eric Murray after he just beat him. They both seem pretty tame. Ask Jack or Murray about the plays and I doubt they’d say they were too bent out of shape.

Some amount of taunting is a good thing! Things like trash talk and celebrations directed at certain players engender the kinds of personal beefs that drive interest in a sport. You don’t want those beefs escalating to the point of violence, but when two players are going at each other over the course of a game and a season, it makes the viewing experience more enjoyable for the fans at home. Officials should be concerned with cracking down on ostentatious taunts that distract from the game and risk sparking violence between players, but the Campbell and Landry plays are harmless in the eyes of everyone but the suits on Park Avenue. 

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