Los Angeles (AFP) – A surge in penalties for taunting has prompted the National Football League to issue clarification of rules regarding unsportsmanlike behavior, league officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, said teams would be sent a video explaining what constitutes a taunting offence following a spike in penalties this season.
According to ESPN, taunting calls have jumped 220 percent compared to the first four weeks of last season while other unsportsmanlike penalties — mostly for celebrations — had risen by 56 percent.
In one of the most high-profile cases, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has twice been penalized for “twerking” during touchdown celebrations.
Blandino said the crackdown was aimed at gestures which could be interpreted as violent or sexually suggestive.
“We certainly want the teams to have clarification,” Blandino said on the NFL Network.
“This isn’t a new issue. We’ve been dealing with this in the past. And so we’re going to send a tape out in the next week or so and clarify some of these things. But the key is if it’s a gesture that either mimics a violent act — that’s something with a firearm or a bow and arrow — or a sexually suggestive act, those are unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s … something that officials will flag.
“That’s direct from the competition committee and something that we’re going to try to be as consistent as possible.”
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin — a member of the NFL’s competition committee — called for clarification of the rules on Tuesday following Brown’s repeated infractions.
“We got to get some clarity in terms of what’s legal and what’s not,” Tomlin said.
“I know that (Brown) doesn’t want it to be a negative thing. He wants to provide positive energy for us and entertain our fans, but we got to get detailed clarity on what he can and cannot do.”
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was also penalized last Sunday for miming the firing of a bow and arrow during a celebration of a crucial interception.
Norman however had done the same thing against the Dallas Cowboys a fortnight earlier and only received a warning.
“I thought they were gonna warn me this time, too. Else, I wouldn’t have done it,” Norman said. “I step to the side, thinking I’d be OK. But they caught me.”