NFL’s crackdown on taunting is ridiculous

Evan Milkie, Reporter

As September approached, the NFL instructed its officials to place a special emphasis on taunting in the upcoming season — that is, “using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams,” as the league’s official rulebook describes it. 

As a result, the referees are on pace to call taunting more than 60 times this year, which more than triples the 19 times the penalty was called in the previous two seasons combined.

The problem is that most “taunting” … isn’t a problem. 

In fact, the celebrations and conflict between players (what the NFL calls “ill will”) is actually part of what makes football entertaining for viewers. Of course, when these types of situations get out of hand, penalties need to be enforced; that’s how the league had been operating until this year, when the ridiculous crackdown on taunting attempted to fix a problem where there wasn’t one.

Lately, it seems that officials are unreasonably quick to toss the yellow flag at even the slightest player interaction. 

There was the time that Byron Murphy was flagged for brushing against Danny Amendola on his way back to the huddle, and the time that Darren Waller was penalized for simply spiking a football after scoring a touchdown (the spike wasn’t even directed at an opposing player). 

But the most atrocious, inexplicable taunting penalty this year happened on Monday, when Cassius Marsh (who was cut by the Steelers in August) was flagged for just looking at the Pittsburgh sideline after making the potential game-winning stop against his former team. 

Players who are flagged for taunting surrender a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down to the opposition, which is what happened to Marsh (the Bears ended up losing). If players are called for multiple taunting penalties, they can be ejected from the game, fined, or suspended. 

The NFL needs to stop letting minor interactions between players, which can hardly be referred to as “taunting”, affect the outcome of games.