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Ball-spinning rule applies only to taunts


It’s something MDS mentioned the other day, but it’s worth repeating when it comes to the new emphasis on the modern plague otherwise known as spinning the football.

As noted by NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy via Twitter, flags will be thrown for celebrations like spinning the ball and performing military salutes only if directed at an opponent.

So it’s still OK to stand up and spin the ball after gaining a first down while trailing by 27 points in the fourth quarter. But if the officials believe that the ball is being spun as part of a taunt directed at an opponent (who may not notice because he’s pointing at the scoreboard), it’ll be flagged.

The issue has been flagged because officials have told teams that they’ll be looking more closely at ball spinning this year, and because it is one of the specific points of emphasis for NFL officials in 2013.

Sportsmanship is always a point of emphasis,” the narrator of the league’s new officiating video says. “Directing verbal abuse at an opponent has no part in our game.” Throwing, spiking, or spinning the ball in the direction of an opponent is a form of taunting that “will not be tolerated.”

So balls can still be spun, as long as it’s not part of a taunt. But the line between celebratory spinning and a taunt may not be clear. Which could make it best to find a way to celebrate that can never be construed as taunting.