- NBC Sports
An unexpected change in the NFL is already rearing its ugly head, and fans are upset as the league is apparently cracking down on celebrations more than ever.
Every year the NFL introduces new rules and announces how it will emphasize the enforcement of old rules. But even as neither of those scenarios seems to apply to celebrations this season, players are getting flagged in bunches and in crucial situations.
Specifically, the league appears to be going out of its way to penalize “choreographed celebrations” – that is, when two or more players participate in a celebration that was planned ahead of time.
We saw this in the Sunday-night game when the Arizona Cardinals recovered a huge fumble in the second quarter. Three players seemed to perform a quick dance to celebrate the turnover and the Cardinals were given a 15-yard penalty.
Another example happened earlier in the day when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration when two players waved their arms in sync after a sack.
In each case, the referee cited a choreographed celebration as the reason for the penalty.
In both cases, the celebrations did not appear to taunt the opposition and did not appear to delay the game in any meaningful way. And yet the officials were trigger-happy with their flags as if they were waiting to penalize a team for making a good play and being happy about it.
We also saw the Oakland Raiders get flagged for excessive celebration after their successful two-point conversion in the final minute against the New Orleans Saints. That was a penalty that could have had huge ramifications, as the Saints only needed a field goal to win the game after the ensuing kickoff. They did, however, come up short on their field-goal attempt.
According to the NFL, this year’s rules changes included things like expanding the horse-collar rule, ejecting players for two unsportsmanlike fouls, and changing the touchback to the 25-yard line. Points of emphasis on rules already in place this year included rush tactics on field goals and extra points, low hits on the quarterback, and coaches leaving the bench area.
At no point does the NFL say officials are to emphasize excessive celebrations or choreographed celebrations.
In the meantime, fans are livid on social media.
I hate hate hate hate hate excessive celebration penalties (even when they help the team I root for). Hate hate hate hate hate hate.
— Aaron Schatz ???? (@FO_ASchatz) September 12, 2016
The NFL needs to cool it with these celebration penalties. It’s not hurting anyone for 2 guys to dance for 3 seconds.
— The Sports Geeks (@thesportsgeeks) September 12, 2016
NFL officials are quick to call a flag for excessive celebration, but slow to flag players for helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton
— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) September 12, 2016
A celebration penalty worth being the same as a roughing the passer call, and more than a holding call is a joke
— Suge Night Shyamalan (@B_Effin_G) September 12, 2016
— Area Man (@RooftopHeckler) September 12, 2016
And we didn’t even look for Cardinals fans.