NFL instructs officials to ‘strictly enforce’ unpopular rule

The NFL is preparing to unleash a crackdown against taunting. 

In the league’s annual rule change and points of emphasis video, the NFL noted that game officials have been told “to strictly enforce” the taunting rule.

“The NFL’s Player Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” the video noted. “We 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.”

Should a player commit two taunting penalties during the same game, he will automatically be ejected. In addition to the disqualification, the player may receive fines and/or be suspended, depending on the severity of the player’s taunts. 

In total, there were 11 taunting flags thrown during the 2020 season. Most notably in the Super Bowl, Buccaneers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for flashing a peace symbol at Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill after breaking up a pass. Winfield was subsequently fined $7,815.

Antoine Winfield Jr. of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taunts Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LV.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In 2016, the last time that the NFL placed a specific point of emphasis on taunting, there were 34 such flags. 

According to Fox Sports, there exists a “significant difference” between a player acting out toward an opposing player and a player merely just gesturing.

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