In Week 2, the NFL and its officials made it clear that taunting, standing over opponents, and excessive, in-your-face trash talk on the field will result in expensive penalties. “In general, I don’t think there’s a place for taunting in the game,” New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on the Greg Hill Show on WEEI when asked about the NFL cracking down on taunting penalties. That, in my opinion, is poor sportsmanship, and it leads to other issues. It leads to retaliation, and then you have to decide where to draw the line. ”
Any Patriots player caught in that situation in 2021 will almost certainly face Belichick’s wrath in the form of a benching or demotion. Are the Penalties Excessive?
The NFL has been accused of being too heavy-handed in the implementation of new initiatives on occasion. The league’s support for worthy causes can appear contrived at times, and the league’s crackdown on certain tendencies can be overbearing.
You can make the case that taunting is the most recent example. Many fans, journalists, and athletes from other sports chimed in to express their displeasure, according to Yahoo!.
Jake Baer of Sports documented some of the more egregious taunting penalties from Week 2. Well, Belichick doesn’t.
After an ominous preseason and questionable start in Week 1, the NFL saw a string of taunting penalties in Week 2 that left fans angry and wondering who on earth asked for players to be severely punished for even mild celebrations when directed at their opponent (the answer is NFL owners mad about Tyreek Hill). On Sunday, we watched a player penalized for spinning a football. And flashing the incomplete sign. And clapping. Los Angeles Chargers tight end Jared Cook got called for one over a run-of-the-mill touchdown celebration, but had that called back due to an illegal shift penalty. The worst moment, though, came during the game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. With the Titans down 30-23 and driving to tie the game, Ryan Tannehill went for a deep pass to A.J. Brown that landed incomplete. Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed, who was covering Brown, got up, flexed while looking at Brown and walked away. Then he received a 15-yard penalty for taunting, moving the Titans into Seahawks territory. Fortunately for Reed and the Seahawks, they still held the Titans scoreless on that drive, but not the next one. The Titans would eventually win a wild game 33-30 in overtime. The episode was more a warning, that in a major game, at a major moment, a player will be penalized for a celebration that wouldn’t have batted an eye last season. The reception for the crackdown on taunting has been almost universally negative in the diverse world of NFL Twitter. Current NFL players hate it. Former NFL players hate it. Current NBA players hate it. Reporters hate it. TV personalities hate it. Anonymous accounts hate it.
There are some examples of excessive taunting.
The Taunting Penalties Need a Happy Medium
There are some examples of excessive taunting. Standing over a downed opponent, staring down at them and jawing almost always results in a brawl. On that type of play, I believe everyone would understand seeing a flag. Walking over to the sideline to get in the face of a coach or player who isn’t in the game also appears to be a taunting flag-worthy incident. A defensive back waving his arms or flexing in the face of a receiver after a pass breakup, or a defensive lineman or linebacker yelling at a running back after stopping them from reaching the first down marker aren’t good reasons to throw a flag.
Football is primarily an emotional sport. When there is no danger, the NFL must be cautious about removing this vital component.
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