The NFL, for the second time in the last seven years, has made taunting a point of emphasis for game officials. Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee, recently addressed this dynamic in an interview with Kris Rhim of the team’s official website.
More importantly than explaining what this new approach is, McKay explained what it isn’t.
“First of all, this point of emphasis has nothing to do with the No Fun League,” McKay said. “Where people can ding us on the No Fun League is the celebration rules. Taunting is a different thing. Taunting is trying to entice that other player into some type of activity that is not allowed in football. So this year, the first issue brought to us by the NFLPA was that there was too much player-on-player taunting activity, and there was too much in your face. Number two, we meet with the NCAA every year, and the college coaches in the meeting say, ‘Hey, when are you guys going to knock down the taunting?’”
The NFL rarely says “how high?” whenever someone says “jump.” College football is one of the rate entities with power over the pro game, because college football controls the NFL’s free farm system.
“The NCAA does not like our celebration rule and the fact that we’ve basically allowed people to celebrate in any way, shape, or form they want,” McKay said. “They’ve come to accept it, and they’re kind of okay with it. They’re not okay with the taunting side of it, which is the face-to-face player trying to entice another into doing something because they see what happens. Three plays later, when nobody’s looking, there is something happening and leads to injuries. It leads to ill will and to other things later in the game that fans don’t even see. That’s all we’re trying to target with this emphasis.”
That’s the best explanation anyone has given for the renewed point of emphasis. It’s an explanation that should have been given before the point of emphasis became public and Twitter reacted with the calm, reasoned, logical approach it typically employs.
It’s not about chilling celebrations. It’s about eliminating the in-your-face type stuff. The stuff that can spark an effort to retaliate.
“This is brought to us by the players, the NCAA; it’s been in our rules forever,” McKay said. “This rule was unanimously supported by the Competition Committee and the NFLPA. I’m not really worried about this one. I’ve seen ones that are tougher and have bigger challenges. This one has been a part of our game for a long time.”
Indeed it has. And it has become a point of emphasis this year because the game officials have failed to call taunting as much as they should.
Again, it’s not a new rule. It’s a rule that has been enforced inconsistently and at times haphazardly. This year, it won’t be. That’s far better than the alternative.