I can’t remember a time when the NFL hasn’t been at some point or another during the course of a season been referred to by somebody as the “No Fun League”. While it has increasingly come to be associated with a disenchantment over the fact that the league has vastly expanded player protections on the field to limit big hits to defenseless players, there has been great scrutiny over an influx of penalties for celebrations.
And the league has evidently taken notice, suggesting that we could see some alteration to how they have their officials legislate celebrations that may walk the line of acceptability. Given the numerous penalties that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown received in this regard just last season alone, this is a topic that is particularly relevant, especially if you consider the team’s recent financial investment in his future.
According to an article from USA Today, the NFL drew 30 “demonstration” penalties over the course of the season, which is more than the previous two seasons combined. And even those numbers tower over the mere five such penalties from the 2013 season. Given the stark rise in penalties, it would seem wise to review the rule and what to emphasize within the rule.
The NFL even poked fun at the idea when Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared in a sketch about excessive celebration penalties with Keegan-Michael Key, half of Kee & Peele, a comedy duo who boasts as one of its most popular sketches one about the NFL’s excessive celebration penalties, legislating how many ‘pumps’ one can take before drawing a flag.
Just last night, the league’s own official Twitter account shared a video featuring players on the Saints demonstrating a clearly orchestrated celebration of a game of leapfrog in the end zone from several years ago. I think there is no question that such a celebration in today’s NFL would draw a penalty and a fine for all parties involved.
The latter is, of course, hypocrisy until proven otherwise, as the NFL has a history of blind spots when it comes to exploiting things that they penalize and fine players for, particularly big hits. There have been instances in which a photograph of a hit that drew a suspension for the player was available for purchase through the league’s own website.
Personally, I don’t know anybody who follows the game and doesn’t think that the sort of celebrations that players have gotten penalized for over the course of the past few years is getting out of hand. I’m sure they exist, but they certainly appear to be in the minority, and most would welcome some lightening up in the league’s office.