NFL Players Will Be Subject to Ejections, Suspensions, More for Taunting in 2021

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 10, 2021

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 07: Antoine Winfield Jr. #31 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taunts Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL will strictly enforce taunting rules during the 2021 season, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

In its annual rule changes and points of emphasis video, the league said two taunting penalties in a game will lead to an automatic ejection. Players can also receive fines or be suspended depending on the severity of the actions.

Ari Meirov @MySportsUpdate

Here's the video sent out today stating that game officials have been instructed to strictly enforce taunting rules in games this season. <a href="https://t.co/1Ssd7h82EJ">pic.twitter.com/1Ssd7h82EJ</a>

Peter Schrager of Fox Sports clarified what officials are looking for this season:

Peter Schrager @PSchrags

Spoke to NFL officials on the taunting penalties last week...There's a significant difference in making gestures and making gestures AT opposing players. <a href="https://twitter.com/gmfb?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@gmfb</a>

A taunting offense will result in a 15-yard penalty for the offending team.

The increased emphasis on taunting comes after a call to action from the NFL's competition committee.

"We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule and not representative of the respect to opponents and others on the field," the points of emphasis video stated.

Referees called only 10 taunting penalties in 2020, including two each by the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns, according to NFLPenalties.com. They threw 32 flags for unsportsmanlike conduct.

As former official and NBC analyst Terry McAulay noted, an increase in flags may be intended to prevent escalation of on-field conflict:

Terry McAulay @SNFRules

This coincides with the NCAA’s equally strict emphasis on taunting this year. Basically, zero-tolerance. Taunting opponents in a sport that is normally played at a level of high emotional often escalates to more serious events that are very difficult to manage and control. <a href="https://t.co/9YLY7wKeYP">https://t.co/9YLY7wKeYP</a>

Regardless, the rule emphasis could lead to penalties that are unpopular among players and fans this season.