NFL Continues Clamp Down on Excessive Celebrations

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Storyline: Is the NFL blurring the lines between celebrations and taunts and, in the process, taking fun out of the game?

Courtesy: CBS

Courtesy: CBS

Did you see Browns’ Andrew Hawkins’ protest against the NFL’s excessive celebration rule?

After scoring a TD against the New England Patriots recently, Hawkins stiffly placed the ball on the turf and robotically walked away. This mechanical performance was his way of reacting to what many are now calling the “No Fun League.” 

It’s true that the league has become strict about calling excessive celebration penalties. And while that approach isn’t likely to affect the performance of players or variables, like online sports betting, it has begun to annoy fans.

Fans are not amused by the growing stiffness of the NFL, which they believe is in response to a trivial matter. But the on-the-field reality is different: NFL referees have been encouraged to enforce rules, which explains why celebration penalties have risen sharply recently.



Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers was fined in the season’s first week for twerking after a touchdown. Brown elicited another fine in Week 4 for a pelvic thrust.

Washington’s Josh Norman was fined for miming shooting a bow and arrow.

The Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. got penalized for taking off his helmet on the field last Sunday.

And, after scoring a TD, Washington’s Vernon Davis was flagged for shooting the football through the uprights like a jump shot.

But penalties aren’t being called consistently and that’s riling up fans. For example, Tom Brady wasn’t penalized after exhibiting a similar arms-in-the-air gesture. He eluded punishment because his actions were supposedly ‘a tribute to Olympic sprinter, Usain Bolt.’

But, even with inconsistent calls, there’s no sign that the NFL will relax its hand. Statistics show that taunting calls have increased significantly, as have unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.



Dean Blandino, NFL Vice President of Officiating, says it’s the NFL’s attempt to control celebrations that mimic acts of violence, especially those that include weaponry. That’s why Norman was penalized for his bow and arrow routine. That said, it doesn’t explain why the Saints’ Brandin Cooks wasn’t penalized for a similar bow and arrow maneuver.

Is the NFL blurring the lines between celebrations and taunts and, in the process, taking fun out of the game?

Blandino thinks that ‘colorful celebrations’ sometimes lead to unsavory behavior. But his determination to supposedly ‘protect children who watch the NFL’ doesn’t sync with fan preferences. 

Many just want athletes to let loose after a score. 


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