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NFL’s taunting rule targets “in-your-face stuff”

The NFL's renewed emphasis on taunting could help the league's look, but it will also require consistent calling and a careful line between, as Mike Florio says, "celebrating and celebrating in someone's face."

One of the strangest items of the past week came from the news (which wasn’t really news) that taunting will be a point of emphasis in 2021, like it was in 2014. Twitter lost its mind over the non-news news.

As we’ve explained, it’s not about preventing celebrations. It’s about preventing specific gestures of disrespect targeted at an opponent.

I get what they’re trying to do,” Fox’s Joe Buck told Jimmy Traina of the SI Media Podcast. “It’s kind of the in-your-face stuff. At least when we had our seminar, they presented it. You can do a lot of the stuff we’ve come to expect, but you can’t do it in the direction of someone else.”

Buck is referring to the annual network presentations that the league office conducts for each of the broadcast partners. Thus, he’s saying that the league office explained during the Fox session that it’s a matter of targeting “in-your-face” gestures.

That’s the key. Celebrate all you want, within the limits of the rules that were dramatically relaxed in 2017. Just don’t disrespect opponents.

That’s what happened in Sunday’s Panthers-Colts game. If a player gets up and flexes generally, no problem. If he flexes in the face of an opponent, 15-yard problem.

"[I]f you’re staring right into another player’s face on the other team and you flex or dance or spike the ball, it’s going to be a penalty,” Buck told Traina. “According to Mike Pereira, Walt Anderson who is now inside the league office, they don’t believe this is going to be like other rules changes where you just see a ton of it early, a ton of it in the preseason and it magically goes away. They believe this will stick for the regular season.”

It should. It’s not a new rule. It’s been the rule. It’s only a point of emphasis because the officials failed to call it consistently, with the most notoriously example being Tyreek Hill’s repeated throwing of deuces in the direction of an opponent while racing to the end zone.