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NFL may consider wiping out touchdowns if player taunts during live ball



NCAA rule on Competition Committee agenda

Golden Tate earned an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, a fine from the NFL, and scorn from both teams after taunting during a touchdown catch and run.

There was quite a bit of chatter in the aftermath of Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver Golden Tate’s over the top taunting on his way to the end zone and a Seahawks’ touchdown (video).   The NFL fined Tate $7,875 for his unsportsmanlike conduct and the officials penalized Tate’s foul on the succeeding kickoff.  The flag, penalty enforcement, and fine wasn’t a surprise.  But, what is a mild surprise is that NFL vice president for officiating, Dean Blandino, said the Competition Committee might consider chancing the penalty enforcement next season and the touchdown off the board if a player should taunt his opponents while the ball is live (video). 

In the NFL and NFHS (high school) rules, unsportsmanlike conduct is penalized but the touchdown always counts – even if the unsportsmanlike conduct happens while the ball is live.  The NCAA currently has a rule that if a ball carrier taunts an opponent during the live ball, the foul is treated as a “spot foul” and the penalty is enforced from that spot.  So, under NCAA rules, Tate’s touchdown would have been taken off the board and the officials would have enforced the 15-yard penalty from the spot where Tate began taunting his opponent.

I would be shocked if the NFL’s Competition Committee adopts the NCAA rule.  First of all, live ball taunting, like what we saw with Tate, has become very rare in the NFL.  The Seahawks policed Tate themselves.  Head coach Pete Carroll scolded Tate and his teammates were not pleased with his antics and let him know about it.  In my opinion, if the NFL adopts the NCAA rule, it would be fixing a problem that very rarely happens.  The NFL also wants to emphasize offense so it would be very unpopular with the fans if a taunting foul takes a touchdown off of the board. 

In high school, if there is a taunting foul during a touchdown, the penalty is enforced on the try for point, which is the 18-yard line under NFHS rules.  A 35-yard extra point has a low chance of success in high school as does a two point conversion snapped from the 18-yard line.  If the NFL wants to change the enforcement of unsportsmanlike conduct on plays like we saw with Golden Tate, they might want to adopt the high school rule — enforce on the try for point.  The extra point kick would be doable for a pro kicker but not a certainty, but a two-point conversion would be no easy task with the try from the 17-yard line.

The NFL has plenty of rules that govern excessive celebration and taunting.  Most of the players know what they can and can’t get away with and generally follow the rules.  If a player egregiously steps over the line like Golden Tate in Week 8, the players will self-police and the NFL will fine the player for such a breach of professionalism.  But, the NFL doesn’t need to adopt the NCAA’s spot foul enforcement on live ball taunting fouls, and hopefully there will not be any serious consideration of this in the offseason.

 Photo: Seattle Seahawks

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"