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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll expressed his concerns with the NFL’s new emphasis on curbing taunting throughout games.
Carroll told reporters the league “opened up a bit of a can of worms” by instructing referees to call more penalties for violations of the taunting rule.
“You’ve got a lot of guys that have to deal with those explosive moments and they’ve got to really turn their focus away from the opponent,” he said. “It’s a good thought. It’s just hard to manage it.”
New York Giants co-owner John Mara, who’s on the NFL’s Competition Committee, said in August that he and his committee members “get kind of sick and tired of the taunting that does go on from time to time on the field.”
Mara also contended that “nobody wants to see a player taunting another player.”
Based on the first two weeks, that sentiment couldn’t be more off the mark.
Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter is the president of the NFL Players Association and foresaw the issue. He wrote on Sept. 7 that the players’ union “would support the removal of this point of emphasis immediately,” based in part because of how the preseason was unfolding.
Almost all penalties are subjective in the NFL, and taunting is one of the more difficult ones to judge. But excessive celebration is a bit like the famous standard for obscenity; you know it when you see it.
As Carroll said, emotions are a natural part of the game. Some trash talk or a quick gesture are inevitable after a big play. Legislating that away would be counterproductive.
Throughout the years, the NFL has been perceived as the “No Fun League” for the way in which it restricted players’ individuality. Those days appear to be back again.