Breaking Down the NFL’s New Celebration Rules

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Facing criticism for the NFL’s stringent policies, commissioner Roger Goodell made an announcement yesterday that the league will ease up on its rules for how players are allowed to celebrate after a big play. Players can face penalties of up to 15 yards and fines in the tens of thousands of dollars for these violations, so here’s a list of their newly updated do’s and don’ts on the field.

Now Allowed:

1. Using the football as a prop

This rule had been put in place “to prevent things from escalating” according to NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino. But was there really harm in escalation when then-Panthers cornerback Josh Norman rode his football like an imaginary horse after an interception return in 2015? (He was fined $8,681 for the move.) He can look forward to more galloping from now on.

2. Celebrating on the ground

Celebrations from the ground were always fair game if you scored on the ground and stayed there. Previously, a player could be penalized for going to the ground after the score, but that rule is going the way of the dodo. 

3. Celebrating with teammates

A string of penalties for celebrations among teammates were issued last season, many of which involved choreographed dances, like the one between Houston’s Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson after a fumble return. The retraction of this rule should give them another reason to bust out some moves.

Still Off-Limits:

1. “Offensive” demonstrations

This past season the reigning king of the suggestive dance move was Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was penalized for twerking and then again for thrusting in celebration. He’ll still have to exercise some hip-restraint if he wants to avoid any more fines.

2. Celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game

In a game infamous for very little time actually spent in action, this often-exercised penalty will remain to avoid any further distractions from game play. Luckily for players it tends to result in a lighter five-yard penalty.

3. Celebrations directed at an opponent

This is one of the most heavily regulated NFL celebration penalties. Some examples of violations listed in the official playing rules include, but are not limited to, “throat slash; machine-gun salute; sexually suggestive gestures; prolonged gyrations; or stomping on a team logo.”

The new rules make no reference to simulating medieval weaponry, so it remains unclear whether Redskins cornerback Josh Norman will be penalized if he ever pretends to shoot a bow and arrow again. 

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