When we think of things deserving of punishment, examples that come to mind for most are things like committing a crime, or breaking some other sort of serious rule. One thing that wouldn’t warrant punishment to most is something as harmless as adults dancing, which makes it hard to imagine why the National Football League (NFL) is stepping up punishments for players that dance on the field?
The rules for on field celebrations have changed over the years. Back in 1984 the NFL rule book stated “any prolonged, excessive, or premeditated celebration by individual players or groups of players will be construed as unsportsmanlike conduct.” But as to be expected with such rules, particularly from that era, there was a loophole stating that “spontaneous expressions of exuberance will be permitted.” This of course left things open for subjective interpretation, especially in terms of what is and isn’t deemed to be acceptable celebratory expressions. By the mid 2000’s NFL owners believed that things were getting out of hand, as players increasingly added the use of props in their celebration dances. Chad Ochocinco Johnson used pylons to putt footballs, and former Saints receiver Joe Horn pulled a phone out of a goal post (for which he was fined $30,000). In 2006 the league responded by voting almost unanimously to ban the use of props and penalize players 15 yards for excessive celebrations. In 2014, the league also outlawed dunking the football on the goalpost.
Former Saints player Joe Horn penalized for stashing and grabbing his cell phone in celebration of his touchdown.
Fast-forward to today, the league and referees have started cracking down more severely on victory dances that are considered taunting, as well as lengthy or excessive celebrations. 15 penalties have already been issued since the start of this season. Compared to the 29 penalties issued last year for such ‘offenses’, at the rate things are going, last years penalties could be exceeded by week 4 of the 2016 season.
Players such as Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco Johnson and Anthony Brown are no stranger to receiving disciplinary action for their signature celebratory touchdown dances. Their crowd-pleasing moves send audiences into a frenzy, and along with their tremendous athletic abilities, have made them fan favorites. Cruz, known for celebrating a great play with a simple salsa step, was recently penalized for dancing while teammate Odell Beckham Jr. (who was also flagged) pretended to photograph him. Just this month, Brown was fined $12,154 and given a 15 yard penalty for twerking following his 26-yard touchdown pass scored against Bashaud Breeland. The charismatic Brown responded by saying next time he would just do two twerk pumps instead of three; poking fun at the frivolous rule which allows some players like Cam Newton and Joe Fauria (who performed an identical twerk dance) to get away with their dances without penalties, while others are fined.
Antonio Brown’s costly twerk.
Joe Fauria’s penalty free twerk.
Despite all of the fines and penalties, some of which can have a negative impact on the game, many players continue to express their emotions through dance, and aren’t likely to stop anytime soon. Last season, William Gay of the Stealers was flagged for excessive celebrating when he performed a minute long chicken dance after scoring what he thought was a touchdown on a fumble. Unfortunately, it was short lived, as the referee penalize Gay and the entire team by reversing the play, which cost them 15 yards and the 12 points that would have put them in the lead. Yet Gay whose joy could not be deterred carried on with his celebration dance, despite the play being reversed. Many dance trends like the Running Man challenge become viral this way, while joy and excitement is shared with the viewers in a way that they too can be part of.
Stealers William Gay keeps dancing for joy despite the play being reversed against him and his team.
See what all the fuss is about and check out these video clips of the players doing the signature dances that got them fined, while you dance along with the featured dancing super-fans who are entertained and inspired by them!