Through the first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season, league officials have thrown 11 penalty flags for taunting — the same amount as the entire 2020 season.
Countless fans, players, coaches and other authorities around the NFL have come out in opposition of the league’s new rules. In fact, the feeling across the NFL world is overwhelmingly negative towards the enforcement of these taunting penalties.
As a member of the NFL’s competition committee, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera had a say in making this one of the league’s points of emphasis heading into the 2021 season.
On Tuesday, he addressed these heavy criticisms, saying he and his fellow committee members hoped the rule change would prevent small issues from turning into major conflicts.
“We’ve had this example where one guy taunts a guy and then the guy comes back for a little payback and the next thing you know, you’ve got a big fight on your hands,” Rivera said, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “You’ve got guys coming from left field hitting each other. And that’s really what, to me I think, the referees are relevant for — they’re just trying to get it quieted down. And that’s really what — I mean, you can do the celebration. They sent a tape out explaining exactly what’s taunting and what’s not. I think if you look at the tape and you follow the tape, then it makes sense.”
Ron Rivera on taunting: “We’re all for celebrations. Remember, we (Carolina) were the 2015 team that everyone was mad at for dabbing and taking pictures on the sideline. … We’re trying to stop from having a brawl on our hands.” pic.twitter.com/vsC0jt6ZgC
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 21, 2021
The biggest criticism with the new taunting enforcement is the silencing of personality and competition amongst players.
Rivera said this was not the rule’s intention.
“I mean, I’m all for the celebrations. Remember, we [the Panthers] were the 2015 team that everybody was mad at because we were dabbing and stuff like that, taking pictures on the sideline. So, you want these guys to keep their personality. You want them to be who they are because these guys are explosive players that make dynamic plays. But the intent is so that somebody doesn’t do something that gets somebody to come back with a little retribution. You don’t want that. You don’t want somebody out for revenge. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.
“And, again, whether we want to or not, we are examples. We’re role models. So if you’re going to do something, do it within the rules. Get up and do your ball drop, do your dab, or your dance, or whatever. But don’t do it toward somebody. Don’t step over somebody or drag your leg over somebody. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”
While it may help prevent a few scuffles, these penalties sure aren’t helping with the NFL’s reputation as the “No Fun League.”