Everyone Hates the NFL’s New Taunting Policy Except the NFL

Through two weeks of the season, NFL officials have thrown 11 taunting flags

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes complain to the referees about a taunting call
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes complain to the referees about a taunting call.
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty

The NFL has a problem with taunting — and it’s the league’s new policy on enforcing that particular penalty.

In August following a meeting of the NFL’s Competition Committee, the league reminded players, coaches and officials that taunting would be a point of emphasis this season. “That’s something we discuss every year in the Competition Committee,” Giants owner John Mara, a member of the Competition Committee, said at the time. “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.”

Through two weeks of the season, officials have thrown 11 taunting flags (eight in Week 2), one short of the most in Weeks 1-2 since 2000, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Following Week 2, the NFLPA addressed the issue with a tweet and re-published an essay its president, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, penned before the season began.

“Fans enjoy the intensity and the raw emotion that our players show on the field; and the overwhelming majority of the time, players understand the line between that emotion and bad sportsmanship,” Tretter wrote. “This year, don’t blame the players who show too much emotion, and cut the refs a break for doing their jobs. Blame the people who push for rules like this time and time again. We’ve seen this before. In 2006, the NFL wanted to eliminate touchdown celebrations — a move that most players, fans and media members thought was a bad idea. It took the fans continuing to push back for the league to finally give in and allow everyone to have a little more fun. This is the league’s second bite at the apple and if fans want to see more emotion, I encourage them to continue to voice that to the league.”

A look through social media shows that fans have certainly voiced their displeasure about how taunting is being called (or not called in the case of Lamar Jackson), but that is not going to get the league to change course and walk back enforcement of the rule, sources indicated to The Washington Post.

“The NFL has no immediate plans to have its competition committee modify enforcement of the rule, according to three people familiar with the situation,” per The Post. “The enforcement by the officials is ‘going as planned’ despite the criticism, and the league thinks ‘players will adjust’ to how the rule is being officiated as the season progresses.”

Players may adjust and fans might get used to taunting being a point of emphasis, but the early returns on the revised policy aren’t great. If the NFL is smart, it’ll walk back the policy. But it doesn’t sound like that’ll happen this season in the No Fun League.

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