October 6, 2016 – Perhaps the NFL should have expanded its commitment to player safety to include the emotional trauma caused by the rise in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that have been levied over the first few weeks of the season. The latest victim of this pro-football prudishness was Pittsburgh Steelers standout, Antonio Brown, who was flagged during a multiple TD blowout game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Following his second touchdown of the night, Brown celebrated with a double air hump in the end zone.
The NFL’s stance is that the hip thrusting is “sexually suggestive” and therefore subject to sanction from game officials.
The league’s rules committee has frowned upon spontaneous displays of player exuberance ever since the celebratory on-field antics of former stars like Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson dominated Sportscenter highlights on a weekly basis. But the sudden flurry of yellow on the field has people like Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, throwing the challenge flag:
“We have to get some clarity in terms of what’s legal and what’s not. I know [Brown] doesn’t want it to be a negative thing. He wants to provide positive energy for us and entertain our fans. But we have to get detailed clarity on what he can and cannot do.”
Players are being flagged for taunting when making the traditional acknowledgement of making a First Down against a tough defense. They’re being flagged for showing too much on-field emotion and/or seemingly for celebrating in anyway that appears to demonstrate that their opponents have failed to prevent them from doing their job. Antonio Brown himself was fined early this season for a mid-game twerking episode:
Despite the crackdown, the NFL continues to use the likenesses of popular players to promote the sport in ways that could be interpreted as sending a conflicting message: