NFL celebrations have been a hot topic lately, especially since the league decided to change the rules surrounding celebrations by players in the offseason. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to football fans earlier this year detailing a change to the rules concerning celebrations on the field.
The change in the rules would allow for group celebrations, using the football as a prop in celebrations, and celebrating on the ground. This decision was met with a lot of praise. The league has often been criticized for punishing players when they were just having fun on the field and the NFL has often been referred to as the “No Fun League.”
For example, last season tight end Vernon Davis of the Washington Redskins was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for shooting the ball over the goal post after scoring a touchdown. The call was met with some criticism as the celebration did not interrupt play of the game and did not appear to taunt the other team or fans at all. But any celebration involving the goalpost was not allowed under the former rules. That’s why Davis was hit with that penalty.
Things are different now. Gone are the days of 15-yard penalties enforced on the kickoff after a player overzealously celebrates a touchdown. Instead, football fans get to see star players have fun on the field after big plays with often choreographed funny celebrations.
Well-known players such as Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster have had several funny choreographed celebrations this year like playing hide and seek and simulating weightlifting with a football. Other teams have also got in on the fun as the Minnesota Vikings have played duck-duck-goose, leapfrog, and pretended to eat thanksgiving dinner in the end zone.
However, it is important to note that just several years ago there were people criticizing quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers for simply dancing (dabbing) in the end zone as a celebration. This was completely legal under the NFL’s rules at the time but he still drew a lot of criticism for it, namely from a woman in Tennessee who witnessed his dancing up close.
The woman was attending a game with her nine-year-old daughter in Tennessee where the Titans were playing the Panthers and after Newton scored a touchdown he started dancing in the end zone like he normally does after a score. The woman proceeded to write a letter to a news outlet calling the dance arrogant and not setting a good example of sportsmanship.
Although this woman has the right to do this, it has to be noted that there has been absolutely no criticism of other quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers for their rage fueled tantrums on the field towards referees or teammates during the game. These antics certainly do not seem to be acceptable as a role model for children.
However, these players are still heralded and get unwavering support, while the tantrums they throw are just seen as part of their competitive nature. A double-standard? Yes.
While Newton and the Panthers have muted their celebration parties this season, the NFL is in a very unique place at the moment. The league, up until this season, had been a focus point of backlash when players were criticized for perfectly legal touchdown dances. It’s a whole new ballgame now. It is a new day. Celebrations that would have been prohibited under the old NFL rules are now embraced.
Newton’s widely popular dabbing was routinely mocked and criticized. Today, a team can play duck-duck-goose in the endzone and the celebration is cheered. The NFL is certainly an interesting place.
Akash Caveney currently attends Cal State Long Beach University as a full-time student.