The NFL gave referees a controversial point of emphasis ahead of the 2021 NFL season: The league’s competition committee wanted its officials to focus on penalizing taunting.
The decision was made in the name of sportsmanship, as Giants owner John Mara explained at the time.
“We get kind of sick and tired of the taunting that does go on from time to time on the field,” Mara said during a news conference. “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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However, through two weeks of the season, the league’s directive has been poorly received by fans and players.
In Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season, there were countless taunting calls whistled. You can see a handful of them from Sunday’s action below.
Many of these celebrations were perfectly fine under the NFL’s previous rules. But now, players have to learn what behavior is and isn’t acceptable on the fly, and they aren’t happy about it.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is one of them. He commented, “AGREE!” on an Instagram post criticizing the new taunting rules.
Brady saw teammate Mike Edwards get whistled for taunting after his second interception returned for a touchdown of the day, so it’s easy to understand why the veteran quarterback would feel that way. He’s not alone, however.
Bears safety Tashaun Gipson also criticized the rule, which he called “a fine line” after being penalized for clapping at Ja’Marr Chase in Sunday’s Bears vs. Bengals game.
“You don’t know if you can be happy,” Gipson said. “I don’t want to go into detail about it, man, but anytime our guys make a play, man, I am going to be the first one to congratulate them and be happy.”
Plenty of other athletes and media personalities agreed that the NFL has gone too far with this rule. Additionally, the implementation and interpretation of it have been inconsistent at best.
There’s virtually nothing we can all agree on on this app except that the NFL’s new taunting rule STINKS.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 19, 2021
PLEASE NFL. THESE TAUNTING PENALTIES ARE RUINING THE GAME. NOT A SINGLE FAN OR PLAYER WANTED THIS CHANGE. IT HAS TO STOP. PLEASE.
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 19, 2021
This taunting rule is outrageous. Not allowing players to react when they make big plays does absolutely nothing. Nobody cares. That personality is FUN.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 19, 2021
NFL gotta do something about these taunting calls 👎🏼
— Alex Caruso (@ACFresh21) September 19, 2021
Bro the taunting penalties have to go . This is insane
— Tony Jefferson II (@_tonyjefferson) September 19, 2021
The NFL taunting rules are even worse than the college targeting rule and that’s difficult
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) September 20, 2021