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2021 rule changes

New point of emphasis aims to reduce taunting during dead-ball periods

The NFL wants its officials to crack down on players who taunt opponents this season.



A new point of emphasis this season aims to cut down on taunting and other actions that disrespect or demean an opponent.

The NFL is directing its officials to “strictly” call unsportsmanlike conduct on players who taunt opponents — be it taunting through words, or posing in front of or over a player.

A “point of emphasis” is not a rule change, but it is something that the NFL wants its officials to address through rules already on the books. Points of emphasis are common at all levels of officiating.

The goal is for NFL officials to consistently call action portrayed above every time. The NFL does not want these types of displays that only turn up the game temperature and cause emotions to eventually explode into a fight. 

Taunting is one of the unsportsmanlike conduct fouls that count toward a player’s ejection.

This emphasis does not specifically include scoring celebrations; those situations that tip toward taunting will continue to be flagged as usual. The emphasis point specifically covers players who taunt, humiliate and degrade their opponent between downs.

Amateur officials will cheer this NFL action. Many kids imitate their NFL heroes and cutting out taunting will help the amateur game.

It will be interesting to see if there is a spike in taunting fouls in August and September.

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?"