NFL-53 10/2/00



There has been a good deal written and said about NFL rules on taunting and demonstrations since the September 24 49ers-Cowboys game.

The following is a brief explanation of as to how the rules are currently interpreted and enforced:


Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1

There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:

  1. Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent even though no contact is made.
  2. The use of abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the league.
  3. The use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.
  4. Unnecessary physical contact with a game official.
  5. Removal by a player of his helmet after a play.

Penalty: Loss of 15 yards from succeeding spot or whatever spot the referee, after consulting with the crew, deems equitable, as well as further possible discipline.


Rule clarification proposed by Competition Committee
and approved by clubs at March, 2000 NFL Meeting:

"The Competition Committee is concerned about overall onfield player conduct, including (1) celebratory acts taking place on the playing field that go beyond the natural, spontaneous expressions of exuberance that add to the excitement and enjoyment of NFL games, (2) actions that are sexually suggestive or can otherwise be construed as being in poor taste, and (3) actions that are unsportsmanlike towards officials.

"Therefore, it is Unsportsmanlike Conduct if two or more players engage in prolonged, excessive or premeditated celebrations, particularly after scoring plays; if a player engages in actions that are sexually suggestive or that can otherwise be construed as being in poor taste; and if a player engages in actions that are unsportsmanlike and/or offensive toward officials. Such unsportsmanlike conduct will subject the player(s) to significant fines."


Game officials have been told that they should not throw a flag for demonstrations. Rather, the discipline for players who engage in prolonged, excessive or premeditated group demonstrations is a fine rather than a penalty on the field unless the action constitutes taunting, which is subject to a flag and a fine.

Following the incidents in the Dallas-San Francisco game on September 24, Senior Director of Officiating Jerry Seeman instructed officials and coaches of the following with regard specifically to running to the center of the field:

"Officials will be directed to call taunting for these inappropriate actions. Effective immediately, if a player were to run to the middle of field and celebrate, it will be a 15-yard penalty for taunting. In addition, the player will be fined."

Individual celebratory acts in or near the end zone that are not acts of taunting, such as spiking the ball, brief dances, the "Lambeau Leap," "Mile High Salute," etc., continue to be perfectly acceptable.