This season, the NFL’s competition committee has focused on game officials asking them to strictly call out a player for taunt – language and actions that disrespect or demean an opponent. The first two weeks of the 2021 season saw an increase in taunt fouls, which sparked an uproar from fans, players, the media and other “hot” performers.
When the NFL emphasizes a point of importance, which involves multiple levels of communication with teams, including video, it is up to coaches and players to adapt. Before, it was legal to grab the face mask. A few years ago, everyone hated the point of emphasis on the passer, the players adjusted and things worked out. The weather is changing. The rules are changing. The points of emphasis change. When the NFL tells officials to throw the flag on taunts, they throw the flag or they’ll miss the playoffs or lose their jobs.
The NFL recorded 24 ejections in 2020, its fourth consecutive season with at least 20 ejections; since 1982 there have been 4 more seasons with 20 ejections, but none have been consecutive.
It is not a problem of regulation or arbitration, it is a problem of training and discipline.
Who wanted this point of emphasis?
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen confusion over the timing of the Competition Committee and the NFL Players Association on this new point of taunt emphasis.
Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay has chaired the influential Competition Committee for 24 years. He recently spoke of mockery. He said the NFLPA approached the competition committee about taunts, and he said other levels of football wanted the NFL to tackle taunts.
First of all, this point of emphasis has nothing to do with the No Fun League. Where people can ring us on the No Fun League, these are the rules of celebration. Taunt is another thing. Taunt tries to entice that other player into a type of activity that is not allowed in soccer. So, this year the first problem that came to our attention from the NFLPA was that there was too much player-on-player taunt activity, and there was too much of it on your face. Number 2: We meet with the NCAA every year, and the college coaches at the meeting say, “Hey, when are you going to end the taunts?
This statement was apparently news for the NFLPA. In a statement, NFLPA President JC Tretter refuted McKay’s statement.
It is frustrating to read comments like those reported last week that the NFLPA was the one who wanted this change. I can assure you, as a participant in the competition committee meeting myself, that was not the case. On the contrary, we would be in favor of immediately removing this point of emphasis.
The fans appreciate the intensity and raw emotion that our players show on the pitch; and the overwhelming majority of the time, players understand the line between this emotion and bad sportsmanship. For example, a while ago the league banned the celebration of the throat hit, which made sense. It was easily applied and clear to everyone. But as we saw in a Colts preseason game – and a number of other preseason games – this attempt to control the “taunts” is going to be a weekly problem that takes the spirit of the game away. .
This year, don’t blame the players who show too much emotion and give the referees a break for doing their job. Blame the people who push for rules like this time and time again.
Tretter ended his comments by asking fans to let NFL management know what they thought of the focus point.
And, it was okay for him to ask fans to take officials off for applying the taunts the way the NFL wants them to.
We now have competing “truths” between the NFLPA and the NFL Competition Committee. Officials report to management, and management wants taunts enforced.
Sometimes the points of emphasis simply disappear.
Or, officials ‘supervisors provide advice and review (or revocation) to officials’ staff.
Or, players will adjust to the point of emphasis, the number of flags will decrease, and it will no longer be a problem for Thanksgiving.
But, as it stands this week, taunts will be a hot topic as we turn the calendar page to October.