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The NFL's Taunting Rule, Explained

Seahawks defensive back D.J. Reed earned an especially egregious taunting call in a loss to the Titans on Sunday, marking the second notable taunting call in the last two weeks. And with much of Week 2 on the horizon, it looks as though consistent taunting calls are here to stay.

There appears to be an increased emphasis on taunting calls in 2021, one spurred by a push from the league's competition committee. Giants owner John Mara was notably driven to push for a rule change, noting "we get kind of sick and tired of the taunting that does go on from time to time on the field."

“That’s something we discuss every year in the competition committee,” Mara said in August. “We get kind of sick and tired of the taunting that does go on from time to time on the field. We tried to balance the sportsmanship with allowing the players to have fun and there’s always a fine line there, but none of us like to see that."

"It’s just a question of whether you can have rules that can be enforced and without taking the fun out of the game too, but nobody wants to see a player taunting another player. I know, I certainly don’t. I think the rest of the members of the competition committee feel the same way, too.”

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Reed was the victim of Mara's crusade on Sunday. He earned a taunting penalty in the fourth quarter on Sunday, flagged after he celebrated a pass breakup. If Reed's actions are worthy of a flag, we could see dozens of taunting penalties thrown by midseason.

Reed's flag cost Seattle on Sunday as the Seahawks lost 33-30 in overtime. Though ultimately, Seattle's young defensive back shouldn't be too hard on himself. He was simply victim to an arcane rule system, one spearheaded by a sexagenarian owner. At least Reed's squad will likely advance further in 2021 than Mara and his Giants. 

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