By Ken Reed

The NFL’s competition committee and coaches, along with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) all agreed that there needed to be a crackdown on taunting this season.

This is a great move and long overdue. Every year there seems to be an increase in the amount of smack-talking and disrespectful gesturing in opponents’ faces. It had gotten to the point where teammates were trying to outdo each other when it came to taunting opponents. In addition to verbal taunting, the new crackdown will penalize gestures like waving the incomplete pass sign in an opponent’s face, straddling a player down on the ground, spiking or spinning a ball in the face of an oppenent, etc.

In a video highlighting the points of emphasis for this season, competition committee chairman Rick McKay said the following:

“The NFL Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” said McKay.

“We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule and not representative of respect due 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.”

Some fans and players hate the new emphasis on sportsmanship, saying it’s taking the fun out of the game. Some have said NFL now stands for the No Fun League. But this isn’t a crackdown on celebrating. Players can still spike the football or spin it after they score a touchdown. They just can’t do it in the face or direction of an opponent. Taunting another player — and flaunting the spirit of sportsmanship in the process — shouldn’t be considered “fun.”

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh had a pretty good explanation for the league’s emphasis on penalizing taunting.

“Sportsmanship is very important,” said Harbaugh.

“The way we treat one another is very important. I think the NFL is out in front in so many ways. We’re high profile. Kids watch us all the time. So the way we treat one another on the field is very important. It’s about respect. Respecting one another out there. How it gets interpreted from game to game, I think that’s something you gotta work through. But it’s basically about respect and respecting one another and sportsmanship.”

Sportsmanship is the spirit of athletic competition. It needs to be constantly encouraged and preserved.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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