CHICAGO — The No Fun League appears to be chiseling away at its long-held, draconian stance on touchdown celebrations.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed NFL owners who are meeting on Tuesday at the J.W. Marriott for their annual league meeting that many long-disallowed celebrations after touchdowns — such as snow angels, using the ball as a prop and group celebrations — will now be allowed again. The league had tried to reduce these from the games over the past several seasons but found out that they were penalizing players for frivolous activities.
Roger Goodell is expected to tell NFL owners group celebrations, using ball as prop after TDs, going to ground, snow angels are now allowed.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 23, 2017
Speaking with a small group of media, Goodell said the league has spent the past few months meeting with players, fans and coaches about the issue and decided it was time to relax their stance on celebrations, opening up more personality to the game again.
“We heard fans and players on this,” Goodell said.
Of course, there will still be excessive celebration penalties for instances of excessive violence (e.g. throat slashes, mimicking a weapon) or sexuality, or for cases where players are taunting opponents or the opposing sideline.
“The players felt strongly about the integrity of the game,” Goodell said. “They wanted no part of that either.”
So still no twerking. Sorry for all the wannabe Hingle McCringleberries out there. That third pump will get ya.
Celebrations can occur in a 40-second window — from the time the referee signals touchdown, the play clock starts and any celebrations allowed can occur on the field between then and the extra-point try. Everything else with the rule remains the same.
And we’re talking about an excessive celebration penalty that was called 33 times (with 12 taunting calls) in the 2016 season, according to competition committee chairman Rich McKay. So perspective is needed here: that’s less than two per week. But with this story, we have an NFL rarity: a change that appears to be one that’s almost roundly rejoiced by all parties.
Of course, there’s always going to be that gray area. Someone surely will be flagged for something borderline, and Goodell admitted that any time there’s a rule change in the NFL “people will want to push it” as far as possible. It’s bound to happen anytime there’s a judgment call in sports — especially in the NFL, where the rules are tweaked for tweak’s sake every year.
But we absolutely can get behind this change. Look, the NFL has taken a strangely restrictive stance on these things for too long, and players have felt shackled by the mostly pointless limitations on what they can and cannot do. Part of their brands are their personalities, and now they can express themselves in ways — collectively, too, not just solo — that will produce more humorous moments and fewer pointless flags.
As McKay pointed out, “the pendulum had swung too far the wrong direction.” It was time to modify the wording on the rules, and so far we like the “bright lines” the NFL has drawn on this. The hope, per new head of officials Al Riveron, is that the preseason can serve as a quality testing ground for officials’ judgment calls over what is allowed and what isn’t.
“I actually think we’ve made it easier for them,” Riveron said. Goodell said the league had heard from officials who told the NFL that they “wanted to get out of this” judgment call that often painted them as the symbols for the No Fun League.
This change should result in a more entertaining product on the field and less burden for the referees. Isn’t that what the sport should be about? Credit to Goodell and the league for listening to the players and finding a happy medium. But really, what took so long?
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