The NFL has decided to make a point of emphasis on flagging taunting in the 2021 season, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. According to the league’s annual rule change and points of emphasis video this was called for by the NFLPLA, coaches and the competition committee:
The NFL Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” (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 is 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.
The penalties on the field remain the same as in the past, but with the point of emphasis attached, we will likely see an uptick in game altering penalties based on a hand gesture. This emphasis comes after a taunting penalty happened in the Super Bowl last season, as Antoine Winfield Jr. gave Tyreek Hill the peace sign in retaliation for Hill doing the same in the regular season. That happening in the Super Bowl may have had some bearing on this news.
Here's the video sent out today stating that game officials have been instructed to strictly enforce taunting rules in games this season. pic.twitter.com/1Ssd7h82EJ— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) August 10, 2021
If this becomes a big part of the NFL season, I can’t see it being a positive for the NFL. Was there really a pervasive taunting problem that needed to be fixed? Did Winfield Jr.’s peace sign really take away from the game? Or did it tie together a history between the two teams and players and add a little fun drama late in the game? I’d say the latter.
If an innocuous taunting penalty changes the outcome of a game or two this season, this decision will come back to haunt the NFL. Hopefully we can get through the season without that happening, but this appears to be a bad decision by the No Fun League.