SEU athletes comment on sports conduct control following NFL rule change

The NFL has once again decided to crack down on celebrating or taunting during games in recent football news. According to the NFL Football Operations, current regulations prohibit “prolonged or excessive celebration…by an individual player or multiple players,”  as well as rules against verbal abuse, gestures, and the use of props after a play. The NFL is no stranger to conduct changes from season to season. Successful plays in general have been celebrated by players on the field since the early sixties, with Homer Jones being the first to make a “spike,” throwing down the ball after a touchdown. In later years these celebrations have been curbed by bans. For instance, in 1983 the Washington Football team high-fived in the end-zone. This conduct was later deemed “an overly demonstrative act,” according to the Washington Post. Later in 2006, the 15-yard penalty was added as a punishment for extreme celebration. This rule is thought to have been put in place because of Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, football wide receiver, and his often outrageous yet entertaining touchdown celebrations. 

What may be confusing for fans and players alike is that in 2017, there was a significant rollback in the NFL’s enforcement of celebration rules. Reports made by The Guardian stated that “the league [would] relax rules on celebrations, permitting spontaneous moments after touchdowns.” The 2017 article even added that the use of the “ball as a prop” would be allowed. However, in this 2021 season, the committee has yet again tightened its grip on rulings of taunting, creating an upset amongst spectators and athletes. In a Twitter post by Barstool Sportsbook, several football players are shown experiencing the brunt of the taunting enforcement. In one clip, Jordan Akins for the Houston Texans is penalized for “spiking” after a play. In another, a Seahawks player who cheers after a successful tackle is penalized and warned that a second similar penalty will result in ejection. 

An important question to ask about recent events is why exactly is this happening. A common consensus amongst officials in the NFL world is that these rules are necessary for the sake of team spirit. St. Edward’s athletes were asked to give their opinion on the matter, and describe how sports conduct is enforced in their sport. 

Andrea Rodriguez, women’s club soccer captain shared her take on the rules. “You can celebrate, but you can’t instigate with the other team. There is also a rule where you can’t take your shirt off. That’s an immediate yellow card.”  Rodriguez said. “If [the action] doesn’t cause any harm, then it shouldn’t matter. However, the rules are helpful because in the heat of the moment, things happen.” 

Jake Howse, a St. Edward’s club lacrosse player, St. Edward’s lacrosse player Jake Howse once experienced unsportsmanlike conduct on the field. “You can celebrate as hard as you want, but you can’t taunt right in front of the opposing team,” Howse said. “There was a team that would hit me and then chant every time they got me down. They were penalized for that conduct.”

While many fans have communicated how the NFL’s changes have only taken the fun out of the sport, conduct rules are vital to every level of sport. However, similar to most contact sports, there is a surmountable degree of risk in football. Perhaps the new degree of enforcement is simply a precaution for the nature of the sport.