NFL Issues Memo to Discourage Taunting, Tells Players to 'Turn Away' from Opponents

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVNovember 19, 2021

NFL referee John Hussey (35) officiates during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)
AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper

The NFL is doubling down on its commitment to penalize taunting this season.

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, the league sent a memo to teams this week reaffirming its commitment to throwing flags for disrespectful behavior.

The league included a video displaying examples of proper player celebrations, with NFL senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson clarifying that the league wants to "discourage acts of taunting or disrespect."

Anderson also provided some advice to the players:

"Avoid any actions where you approach an opponent or his bench and gesture, posture or otherwise demonstrate any verbal or physical form of disrespect. Turn away. Take the opportunity to celebrate with your teammates and don't put officials in the position of having to make a judgment about whether or not your actions rise to the level of a foul. Remove all doubt and don't put yourself or your team at risk of a penalty."

Per Seifert, there have been 35 flags for taunting in 2021 with 16 coming in the last three weeks of play.

One of the most notable calls came in a Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, when Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh was flagged for approaching the opposing bench. 

NFL officiating later defended the call (1:00):

NFL Officiating @NFLOfficiating

SVP of <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a> Officiating Perry Fewell covers plays from Week 9: <a href="https://t.co/vXZzsnup46">pic.twitter.com/vXZzsnup46</a>

The latest memo and video sent to teams did not include the Marsh penalty but showed examples of celebrations by Levi Wallace, Keenan Allen, Genard Avery and Mario Edwards of what not to do, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

The emphasis on taunting has been controversial among players, coaches and fans throughout the season.

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters Thursday he supports the penalties.

"I’m a firm believer in respect and just kids growing and watching and we have a huge platform as leaders. Players and coaches," Nagy said. "Let’s understand what the rules are, let’s do it the right way."

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton countered by telling the Dan Patrick Show that "it's being over-officiated."

It seems the NFL is sticking with its strategy regardless of outside opinion.