The horde of player complaints and the NFL Referees Association's desire to be relinquished of their duty to call excessive celebration flags after touchdowns has influenced NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to reportedly relax some of the rules regarding player celebrations, as first reported by Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Pelissero added, "Goodell has been meeting with players for months on this. Emphasis on spontaneous exuberance. Result should be more fun, fewer flags."
Peter King of The MMQB wrote about the likely rule changes Monday:
“The NFL flagged and fined 26 players for excessive celebration last year; most of those celebrations this season will not be penalized or fined. Commissioner Roger Goodell and his staff met on at least two occasions this spring with a large group of players (one club official told me Goodell talked with more than 40 players about this issue) and came to his senses: It’s asinine to use the "ball as prop" reason to penalize players, and even more asinine to fine someone $12,000 for the simple act of expressing joy after scoring a touchdown. Most of those penalties will disappear Tuesday at the league meeting. “
The NFL has long been renamed the “No Fun League” because of its restrictive policies on the natural act of celebration. Players hate it and this generation of fans denounce any corporate control of emotions whatsoever.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens was known for his elaborate, creative and self-centered TD celebrations. From the Sharpie to the Hall of Fame coat, T.O. is a Top 3 TD celebrator in NFL history and one of the game’s most memorable divas. His flair for entertaining the crowd was part of what makes his career so memorable despite never winning a Super Bowl.
"... I think that's what is really taking the joy and the enjoyment out of the game," former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens said of the strict celebration rules, per Tesfatsion. "Really, for fans, they not only want to see their team win; they don’t just only want to see a good product from both squads, but they want to see some entertainment."
It seems that the the NFL is attempting to balance the entertainment and marketing value of the game with sportsmanship. As time progresses and individuals are allowed to express themselves more in team sports, naturally the NFL should find a way to incorporate these celebrations -- which fans and social media maniacs get a huge kick out of -- into the game’s culture and not have something so natural as expressing joy be so adversarial to rules that don’t take the human element into account.
In the past, Goodell, has defended the stricter rules on the basis of sportsmanship, but his survival as commissioner involves adjusting with the times as well.
"It's also something that we’ve been dealing with for well over 35 years since I’ve been in the league in the same concept: balancing sportsmanship, avoiding taunting and trying to allow players the ability to express themselves in an exuberant way to celebrate," Commissioner Goodell told The Washington Post in February. "We think that's great. We want to see more of that. We want to see the players do that. But we want to see them do it respectfully to their teammates and their opponents."
If we were talking about high school and college kids sure, but pro athletes don’t need Goodell or anyone else to legislate or teach them how to have sportsmanship. That’s a load of bunk. It’s simply about control and no different from contract struggles and holdouts, choosing to kneel for the anthem or wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during warmups. It's a matter of taste and being able to allow players to express themselves individually within a conservative corporate structure.
By loosening the rules and the reigns on celebrations, Goodell avoids a full-fledged riot and maintains control of the situation as he still determines the extent to which the NFL players can celebrate.
It all seems silly in the first place, but it’s big business at the end of the day