The NFL has earned a reputation for being petty as hell over the course of the last decade. The league has done it by fining players for everything from wearing custom cleats to bring attention to a good cause to putting on eye black to honor a late family member. And while you could argue that the NFL took those drastic steps to prevent other players from altering their uniforms or wearing whatever they wanted on game days, the league has also raised its petty level by going as far as to penalize and fine players for doing something as trivial as celebrating. The NFL has routinely docked teams 15 yards and sent large fines to players for launching into celebrations after scoring touchdowns or picking off passes. It’s why so many people have routinely referred to the NFL as the "No Fun League."
But it sounds like the NFL is going to get slightly more fun next season. On Tuesday, Roger Goodell sent a letter out to fans indicating that the league is going to relax some of the rules regarding celebrations. As a result, players will now have the right to show emotion after they make a big play on the field without the fear of a referee throwing a penalty flag and the league mailing out a fine. Goodell said he spoke with more than 80 former and current NFL players before the league made the decision to do away with most celebration-related penalties.
"We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown," Goodell said in his letter. "And players have told us they want more freedom to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements."
This is great news for fans. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your favorite team score only to have them pick up a 15-yard penalty for a creative celebration in the process. It’s also obviously great news for players, who will now be able to show off their creativity on the field without hurting their teams and their bank accounts. But Goodell was quick to point out that not all celebrations will go unpunished. Referees are still going to be on the lookout for offensive celebrations—which could create a slippery slope since what’s offensive to one referee might not be offensive to another—and there are still going to be penalties and fines handed out to those players who cross the line.
This has created some confusion over what kinds of celebrations players will be penalized and fined for. So in the interest of trying to help players save a few bucks, we thought we would break down the NFL’s updated celebration rules a little further. Here are the types of celebrations that will and won’t be allowed next season.
Allowed: Pretending to Shoot a Football Like a Basketball
When the NFL banned players from dunking the football over the goal posts in 2014, it made sense. Every time a player "dunked" a football, he ran the risk of moving the goal posts and causing a delay in the action. But it didn’t make sense for the NFL to fine Redskins tight end Vernon Davis more than $12,000 last season for shooting a jumper over the goal posts after scoring a TD. So it’s good to see that the NFL will allow players to use the football as a prop from now on.
Not Allowed: Pretending to Shoot a Machine Gun or a Bow and Arrow
This seems like it would be common sense, no? Apparently not because, back in 2011, Eagles linebacker Brian Rolle was fined $10,000 for pretending to shoot a machine gun after making a big play. And the consensus is that he got off easy. If a player were to do this in 2017, he might face a penalty, a fine, and a suspension. No matter how relaxed the NFL’s rules get, don’t expect to see the machine gun celebration return anytime soon. Oh, and you also shouldn’t expect to see players like Josh Norman using the bow and arrow celebration that became popular last season:
Machine guns and bow and arrows seem to fall into the same category in the NFL.
Allowed: Jumping Onto the Ground to Make Snow Angels
Going to the ground during a celebration used to be frowned upon by the NFL. It’s why former Patriots tight end Wes Welker was fined $10,000 back in 2008 after he decided to make snow angels after catching a touchdown pass. But from now on, players will be permitted to bring back the ground celebrations. So you’ll probably be seeing a lot more snow angels in addition to a lot more of this:
Not Allowed: Jumping Into a Salvation Army Kettle
The NFL decided to avoid a PR nightmare by not fining Ezekiel Elliott for jumping into the Salvation Army kettle situated behind the end zone during a game in 2016. But they did hit him with a 15-yard penalty for doing it, and it sounds like he would still be subjected to that same penalty if he did it again. Celebrations that last too long, like the one Elliott did, or that are deemed to be excessive in nature will still be subjected to the usual celebration penalties.
Allowed: Working Together With Your Teammates to Celebrate as a Group
The NFL banned groups of players from celebrating together after scoring touchdowns after several teams took things a step too far and started offering up choreographed numbers. And it’s still unclear just how far NFL referees are going to allow "group demonstrations" to go. Celebrations that drag out for more than a few seconds will probably draw a flag. But celebrations like the one in the video above featuring the 49ers celebrating a touchdown as a team won’t draw flags anymore.
Not Allowed: Twerking While Your Teammates Wonder What in the World You’re Doing
When Antonio Brown heard about the rule changes concerning celebrations on Tuesday, he took to his Twitter account to wonder if his patented twerking celebration will now be allowed:
It cost him quite a bit of money last season. But unfortunately for him, it sounds like it will still cost him money if he does it. Dancing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown is OK, but celebrations that are seen as being "sexually suggestive" are not:
So AB will have to keep the twerking to himself. Same goes for the guys who routinely broke the "three pump" rule that was once featured on Key & Peele:
Goodell specifically said those celebrations are still banned, too:
Stick to making snow angels instead, guys.