NFL taunting rule causes uproar among football fans


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A helicopter flies over the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, prior to Super Bowl LV. The NFL has instated a new restriction against players taunting others on the field to combat the recent decrease in sportsmanship.

Imagine celebrating as your favorite player runs toward the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, just to be fined for “taunting.” This year, the National Football League (NFL) introduced a new taunting rule that limits player behavior on the field.

Taunting is defined by the NFL as “using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.” Because the rule is classified as a personal foul, the punishment for such violation is a 15-yard penalty, and in most situations, a fine for the player. 

The NFL “saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule and not representative of the respect to opponents and others on the field” ( Although it is true that sportsmanship in the NFL has been decreasing, this punishment is not the best way to control this ongoing problem in the NFL. “I don’t want to live in a world where this minor level of enthusiasm after steamrolling the entire defense is a 15-yard penalty,” football analyst Warren Sharp said.

Sharp is not the only one who doesn’t want to see an increase in unnecessary penalties. Fans love to see the competitive nature of the great game of football, including celebrations, which can intensify player and team rivalries.

An example of a player rivalry that was ruined by the taunting rule was that between Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Tampa Bay’s Antoine Winfeild Jr. In a regular season game between Tampa Bay and Kansas City on Nov. 19, 2020, Kansas City gained an early lead in the first quarter by Hill scoring a 75-yard touchdown. While on his way to the endzone, he threw up his signature peace sign directed to Winfeild; no penalty was called. 

The teams rematched later in that season at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021; the stakes were high. In the third quarter, Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City’s quarterback) threw a pass intended for Hill, but was quickly intercepted by Winfield Jr. In celebration—and retaliation to Hill’s celebration in the previous matchup—Winfeild Jr. threw up Hill’s signature peace sign right in Hill’s face. 

In response, Tampa Bay was punished with a 15-yard taunting penalty, and the NFL fined Winfield Jr. a whopping $7,815. This caused an uproar in the NFL community, as it was such a controversial call in the biggest game of the year. Despite the backlash the NFL has received regarding this rule, they still have not gotten rid of it or even changed it.

A viable solution that will get rid of the taunting rule but still address the sportsmanship problem would be to abolish the rule completely, making it up to the teams and the fans to ensure the players are celebrating in a respectful manner. This would effectively solve the sportsmanship issue while not interrupting the “flow” of the game.