From the Lambeau Leap, to the discount double check, to goal post dunks, touchdown celebrations have become a consistent and integral part of NFL football.
Throughout history, we have seen quite an evolution of celebrations. Beginning in 1965 when Giants wide receiver Homer Jones pioneered the first ever “spike”, to 2016 when Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown twerked in the end zone, clearly touchdown celebrations have evolved. However, in this period of over 50 years, one thing has remained constant: football fans love it.
Despite this fact, recently the NFL has become stricter on these celebrations, imposing taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, along with hefty fines. In 2015, the NFL saw nine total penalties for “prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations” and 29 total taunting penalties.
This past season, those numbers were surpassed by week 8.
Not only does a 15 yard penalty significantly hurt an NFL team, but the fines issued for these celebrations are also quite significant. The largest of these fines came against tight end Jimmy Graham in 2014 after he dunked the football over the goal post. Graham had to mail out a $30,000 check to the NFL for that stunt.
To put that in perspective, $30,000 could buy a 2017 Toyota Camry, with enough money left over for 1,930 bags of Twizzlers, but was instead spent dunking a ball over a goal post.
Not only are these fines excessive, but they are also disproportionate. In 2015, Rams CB Lamarcus Joyner’s cheap shot that knocked QB Teddy Bridgewater unconscious only warranted a $23,152 fine. This sends the message that the NFL prioritizes touchdown celebrations over player safety, and many feel that this is a glaring issue.
NFL players both past and present have expressed their concern and hatred towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell regarding this issue. Chad Ochocinco, known for his clever touchdown celebrations throughout his own career, stated that “the game isn’t even fun anymore.” Fans everywhere have chimed in calling the NFL, the “No Fun League” on various social media websites. Former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn went as far as to assert that “Roger Goodell is like f***ing Vladimir Putin” when it comes to touchdown celebrations. Maybe that particular example is a little too harsh, but these players certainly do have a point.
Seahawks CB Richard Sherman had a more rational approach to the issue. He argued that people watch the NFL for personal entertainment, and by outlawing celebrations, they are therefore not allowing players to entertain. He goes on to say that players can’t show any kind of “personality, any kind of uniqueness, or any individuality.”
Sherman went on to speculate that these actions by the NFL could be one of the reasons the television ratings have gone down this season. According to a survey done by MarketingCharts.com, viewership from fans ages 12-24 has plummeted 37% over the past five years.
Obviously, excessive celebration penalties are not the only direct cause of this, but they are certainly a contributing factor.
By Eric Spiniello Photo Credit: draftsharks.com