NFL to Make Taunting Penalties Point of Emphasis During 2021 Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 21, 2021

Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay speaks to the media during the NFL football owners meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that officials plan to crack down on taunting in 2021. 

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network provided more information:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

One point of emphasis in NFL competition committee's report, per chairman Rich McKay: Taunting. Not so much TD celebrations, but feeling of coaches' subcommittee is they've gotten lax on players going face to face, standing over people, pointing fingers, etc. Expect more flags.

If referees do crack down on taunting, we could potentially be seeing some game-changing penalties given the severity of the punishment.

Taunting is listed as a "prohibited act" in the 2020 NFL Rulebook in the Unsportsmanlike Conduct section.

Various taunting acts are discussed, including "using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League" and "using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams," among others.

One taunting penalty results in a 15-yard loss for his team, and a second one in the same game also ends with a disqualification. Violations could also result in discipline from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The most notable taunting penalty last year may have been Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. giving Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill his own "peace sign" taunt after a turnover on downs late in the Bucs' 31-9 Super Bowl LV win in February. It was a retort to when Hill did the same during the regular season:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tyreek Hill gave Antoine Winfield Jr. the peace sign in the regular season 👀 Winfield got the last laugh. @brgridiron https://t.co/mCpXSvPcls

The Bucs lost 15 yards, and the defensive back was fined $7,815. Of course, the penalty ended up being meaningless, and Winfield got a Lombardi Trophy at the end.

Still, it will be interesting to see if taunting penalties swing games in 2021 after the competition committee's edict.