Senior Staff Writer
The NFL’s taunting penalty is getting out of hand. In a highly competitive sport filled with emotion and passion, the NFL’s competition committee has made taunting a point of emphasis for the 2021-22 season.
The rules of football are established to ensure player safety and fairness throughout the duration of play. However, since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was instated in 2006, the league has adopted several rules which tag the NFL as the “No Fun League.”
Goodell has been criticized for the lack of freedom he allows the players, and it has taken a hit on the entertainment aspect of the game. Of course, people are not tuning in to CBS at 1:00 to watch players dance in the endzone, but it adds spunk to the game and gives players a chance to express their passion. Taunting is no different from celebrating after a touchdown, except it is explicitly directed towards the opponent.
Taunting has been background noise throughout the season but rose to the spotlight in Monday night’s matchup between the Chicago bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a sack on a critical third-down late in the fourth quarter, Bears outside linebacker Cassius Marsh was called for a questionable taunting penalty.
After the play, Marsh performed his signature sidekick, his go-to celebration for his entire career. Seconds before the flag, NFL official Tony Corrente seemed to deliberately back into Marsh on his way back to the sideline. Corrente claims the contact had nothing to do with the call and later reinforced his decision by rehashing the fact that taunting is a point of emphasis in the league this year. According to a pool report, Corrente said, “I saw the player after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them.”
In a postgame interview, Marsh did not hold back as he said Corriente’s “hip check’ was incredibly inappropriate. Monday night’s game was pivotal for both franchises and was ultimately decided by Correntes’ taunting call.
When the taunting rule change was proposed, it received support from many of the league’s head coaches, including Steelers Head coach Mike Tomlin. As a competition committee member, Tomlin pushed for the change to clean up the league and help the players set a better example for younger generations.
The initial intention of the rule was to avoid unsportsmanlike actions that may lead to fights, but it has steered another direction. There is too much grey area with taunting calls; most calls will have two rational arguments: one team will say the player was only celebrating, while the other will say it was taunting.
Although Monday night’s taunting call against Marsh has spurred substantial controversy, the NFL stands by the call. The taunting penalty does not need to be erased; however, a taunting call can not define the outcome of a season-defining game.