It was reported toward the middle of last month that the NFL was reconsidering its tactics in policing and enforcing its demonstration penalties, which is a topic that I covered at the time. There seemed to be significant momentum to do something about it after the number of demonstration penalties rose from just five in 2013 to 30 in 2016.
Yet when all was said and done, there was nothing on the table during the league’s first set of annual meetings in Arizona on which to weigh their options. Reportedly, Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to table the idea until later on in the offseason, perhaps during the May league meetings, in order to gain a greater sense of clarity on the issue.
The demonstration rules, which include the policing of celebrations, is something that Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been all too aware of, as the team has been inflicted with a number of such penalties over the course of the past two seasons.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown in particular was hit with multiple celebration penalties following touchdowns during the 2016 season, in addition to drawing several warnings for wearing his custom cleats during games. it grew to be enough of an issue to force their head coach to weigh in on the topic, though it never developed into a dreaded full-blown ‘distraction’.
The league seems to be overtly conscious of finally responding to some issues it has had with its reputation in recent years as a byproduct of a pronounced dip in ratings during the previous season. They are attempting to take several measures to improve the viewability of the game, including reducing the frequency of commercial breaks during the broadcast.
Another issue that viewers have grown tired of has been, quite frankly, the penalties for celebrations, strengthening the NFL’s reputation as the ‘No Fun League’, in spite of the fact that they still perhaps inadvertently utilize video of celebrations that in today’s game would be penalized.
So it makes sense that the league would want to do something to address this issue after it appeared to have bloomed into proportions out of their control. There has been a steady increase in the number of celebration penalties for three years, and it’s generally an issue that the average fan doesn’t care about.
That would lead me to guess that the issue will be addressed later on in the offseason, and it appears that Goodell is actually seeking player feedback on the topic before the NFL really weighs the issue in earnest to modify their rules policing demonstrations, including celebrations.
This is obviously an issue that the NFLPA would support, and the NFL has already worked with the NFLPA in passing new player safety regulations that they have proposed, including the proactive banning of the ‘leaping’ action that has become more widespread in recent years during field goals and extra point attempts.