NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino released his weekly officiating video for week 4 (video below). A majority of the video goes into great detail about what does and what does not constitute taunting.
Through four weeks, the NFL has flagged 16 instances of taunting and 19 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 63 games. If a player is flagged for two unsportsmanlike penalties in specific categories, they are removed from the game.
“Anything directed at an opponent will be a foul for taunting … Player-to-player – whether that’s a gesture, verbal, anything aggressive in your face, spiking the ball, spinning the ball at an opponent – is taunting.
Blandino stressed that officials are not trying to legislate celebration and emotion, but anything violent, sexually suggestive, or that violates the generally understood rules of sportsmanship will be flagged under the unsportsmanlike penalty rule. On gestures, he stated:
Anything that mimicks a violent act will be a foul. The throat slash: that’s a foul. Anything that mimicks weaponry, whether that’s shooting, firearms, bow and arrow. It may seem nitpicky, but we’re trying to remain consistent and give the officials consistent guidelines.
A celebratory dance, as long as it’s not choreographed with another teammate is perfectly legal, as are team celebrations. Officials will not penalize the emotional part of the game. Also, spiking and spinning the ball is fine if it’s not directed at an opponent, as is taking a bow, a hand salute, or going to the ground on a knee in prayer. However, players may not go to the ground and use the football as prop in a celebration like laying on a pillow or rocking the ball to sleep like a baby. Players may also just simply hand the ball to the official.
Blandino added that the league has an interest in maintaining standards of decency and do not wish to influence the youth who play football who may see these acts and think they’re okay.
Lastly, the video covered the catch rule again. Briefly, Steelers wide receiver Sammy Coates caught a touchdown pass and appeared to gain control going to the ground, he did not get two feet down, however, it appeared his right leg above the ankle could have hit the ground as he was going out of bounds. Blandino stated that a call on the field stands because of this possibility.
Photo: Garrett Campbell/Washington