The NFL has been cracking down on unsportsmanlike and taunting penalties this year and doing so with a special kind of vigor. If it feels like you’ve been seeing a lot more hankies on the ground after good plays and touchdowns it’s because a lot more have been thrown through the first four games of the season.
Taunting penalties have increased by a whopping 220 percent compared to the first four weeks of 2015, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. There has also been a 55.6 percent increase in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and it’s because officials are throwing flags at any hint of post-play activities. There’s also flags for spinning the ball too close to an opponent or shooting a pretend bow and arrow after a touchdown.
Retired NFL official Jim Daopoulos is an analyst for ESPN and other outlets and believes that the league won’t back off on the penalties despite being in pace for the most heavily penalized season in NFL history.
“What you’re seeing right now is a setting of the tone. And I think the players are going to need to take it to heart and understand that this is the way it’s going to be called. I don’t think you’re going to see the league go to officials and tell them to back off. Sportsmanship is a big deal to them. The players are just going to have to adjust, and that’s the only way this will change.”
The rule book actually contains the following phrases: sack dances, home run swings, incredible hulk, spiking the ball, spinning the ball, throwing or shoving the ball, pointing, pointing the ball, verbal taunting, military salute, standing over an opponent (prolonged and with provocation) and or dancing. All of them are considered taunting and illegal if committed directly toward an opponent.
And yes, “incredible” and “hulk” are right next to each other in the rule book. Players are mostly unhappy about it because they don’t feel the acts are all that terrible and are mostly just for fun. This should be fun when the topic becomes a serious bargaining point in taking away some power from Roger Goodell.