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2017 rule changes

Celebration penalties tweaked, but not twerked

What was left in will still have complaints of the “no fun league.” And, Roger Goodell will continue to be booed.



The league owners voted to refine the restrictions on player celebrations, while what was left in will still have complaints that the NFL is the “no fun league.” And, commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to be booed.

For 2017, Goodell says using the ball as a prop, going to the ground to celebrate (dance, snow angels, etc.) and group celebrations are allowed. He cautions that the officials can flag celebrations if they warn players to take it to the sideline, but the celebration continues and delays spotting the ball for the next play.

Outgoing senior vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino said there were 30 celebration fouls in over 40,000 plays in 2016. However, some of the cases involved some unusual judgement calls. A bow-and-arrow was hypertechnically ruled a weaponry allusion. A snow angel was a flag in one stadium where a player went to the ground, but not in another because the scoring player was already on the ground. Dunking the goalposts was made illegal because of safety issues, but the same rule ensnared a fadeaway jumper.

And, let’s not even get started on twerking.

The way we read it, officials will still flag players for the following acts:

  • Prolonged demonstrations by a player after a warning from an official (and will be extended to the group demonstrations)
  • Use of a foreign object (also subject to ejection)
  • Use of pylons or goalposts as a prop
  • Removal of a helmet for a celebration or demonstration.

There are other violations that are enumerated in the rulebook — throat slash, machine-gun salute, sexually suggestive gestures, prolonged gyrations, or stomping on a team logo — that are likely to stay in the revised rules. This group is filed under the taunting violations, although some are obviously listed because they are headaches for the league office in terms of brand imaging. Those actions are also grouped in the types of fouls subject to ejection for a double violation. 

In his statement, Goodell commented:

In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition, and setting good examples for young athletes. That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized.

Other acts of taunting directed at an opponent are expected to stay illegal, such as standing over a player or spiking the ball at a player. While these may seem to be a “part of the game,” these actions make it unnecessarily more difficult on the officials as teams will engage in a tit-for-tat battle for three hours.

[Image: Baltimore Ravens photo]