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Controversial MNF Call is Proof the NFL’s Taunting Rules are a Joke
Screenshot from YouTube

The NFL is actively trying to ruin the game we know and love.

No, I’m not talking about the league’s putrid overtime rules, which basically let a coin flip decide a game. This isn’t about the fact that if a player so much as breathes on a quarterback he’ll be flagged for roughing the passer (uh, since when is football not a rough sport?).

The NFL’s taunting rule — which has been used in conjunction with the “No Fun League” moniker — has proved to be a joke all season long. During the Monday Night Football contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears at Heinz Field, one terrible taunting penalty finally affected the outcome of a game.

That’s why the NFL needs to rethink this new crack-down of “taunting.”

Bears LB Cassius Marsh Flagged For Taunting on MNF

RELATED: NFL Overtime Rules: Explaining How It Works (And Why They’re Dumb)

Imagine a player gets a pivotal sack and wants to celebrate by having some fun. That should be part of the game.

Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh found out that doesn’t fly anymore in the NFL. After taking down Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on third down in the fourth quarter of what shaped up to be a close game, he executed a spin kick and simply stared at the Steelers’ sideline as if he was the baddest man on the field. He didn’t even motion to anyone.

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Referee Tony Corrente took issue with it. Corrente, who also leaned into and hip-checked Marsh as he ran by, threw his yellow flag for a 15-yard penalty.

There was 3:30 left in the game, and the Steelers, who were up 23-20 at the time, were able to continue driving down the field. They eventually won the game on a late field goal from kicker Chris Boswell, 29-27.

What Corrente & Marsh Said About the Taunting Call

Corrente spoke to reporters after the game and gave his viewpoint, mentioning taunting has been a “point of emphasis” this season.

He said he saw Marsh “run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them.”

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Meanwhile, Marsh told reporters he felt he was hip-checked by Corrente.

“On my way to the sideline, I got hip-checked by the ref. It’s pretty clear,” the Bears defender said. “If I was to do that to a ref or even touch a ref, we get kicked out of the game and possibly suspended and fined. I just think that that was incredibly inappropriate.”

Let’s be honest, here. That taunting penalty call was a bigger joke than Drew Brees’ new hair. So, what exactly is the NFL’s taunting rule policy and why have there been so many called this year?

What is NFL’s Taunting Rule?

Taunting isn’t explicitly defined in the NFL rulebook, but here’s what it says isn’t tolerated:

“Using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.

“Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.”

The problem? This is the most vague bunch of garbage you’ll find. What exact actions would constitute “taunting acts”? What can players do and not do?

If you can find where Cassius Marsh committed any of these, I’d love to see it.

The call is more than just a 15-yard penalty. Players can cough up as much as $10,300 for a first-time offense and as much as $15,450 the following time.

Why the NFL is Cracking Down on Taunting Now

The league’s taunting rule isn’t necessarily anything new, but it’s clear that referees have been more strict regarding the issue this season.

Why? One might ask the owners, who came together in the offseason and determined anything that looked like taunting doesn’t have a place on the gridiron.

“That’s something we discuss every year in the competition committee,” New York Giants owner John Mara told NBC Sports. “We get kind of sick and tired of the taunting that does go on from time to time on the field. We tried to balance the sportsmanship with allowing the players to have fun and there’s always a fine line there, but none of us like to see that. It’s just a question of whether you can have rules that can be enforced and without taking the fun out of the game too, but nobody wants to see a player taunting another player. I know, I certainly don’t. I think the rest of the members of the competition committee feel the same way, too.”

What happened to talking smack? What happened to playing with emotion? Deion Sanders and Lawrence Taylor should be glad they don’t play today, because it seems like the NFL wants a league full of robots.

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Patrick covered the Florida Gators during the forgettable Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain eras before spending two seasons writing for Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. He lives in South Florida but his heart belongs in Gainesville, Florida.
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