Despite relaxed celebration rules, touching the cross bar remains a penalty
The NFL has relaxed its celebration rules this year, and some basketball-style celebrations that previously had been penalized are now legal. Just don’t touch the cross bar on a dunk.
A league source tells PFT the officials will now allow celebrations that include layups or finger rolls over the cross bar or shooting the ball through the goal posts. Last year, those types of celebrations drew penalties. This year, they won’t.
But what about the dunk over the cross bar? That one is risky, as the officials will flag a player who touches the cross bar or goal posts. Jumping up and throwing the ball over the cross bar would be OK, but a dunk that includes touching the cross bar would be a penalty.
That penalty goes back to the time in 2013 when then-Saints tight end Jimmy Graham delayed a game by about 20 minutes when he dunked over a goal post and hit the cross bar in the process, knocking the goal post off-balance. The next offseason, the league banned dunks.
A simpler rule might simply be to tie celebrations into delay of game penalties: If the celebration delays the game, it’s a penalty for delay of game. If it doesn’t delay the game, it’s not a penalty.
Instead, the NFL’s rule is this: Some celebrations are OK, but others are a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. If you dunk and touch the goal post in the process, you fall into the latter category.