It is week 11 of football season and as playoffs are on the horizon, every touchdown is significant. As it is a pivotal part of the game to get touchdowns, it’s understandable for the players to be excited but it isn’t okay when they take it too far.
Endzone celebrations are a choreographed or “in the moment” display of excitement and sometimes a form of entertainment for the fans. In the past, players have pretended to nap on the ground, jumped into the fan’s section and created some dances with teammates.
The NFL has cracked down on end zone celebrations and ran some significant fines to keep the players in-line. But since 2017, most of these bans were lifted, which has created some creative and, at times, distasteful displays.
Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs receiver, took over as a camera operator during his celebration in Week 10 and positioned the camera on his teammates and the crowd. Hill seemed to enjoy the display yet, the NFL did not and he was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the game for this action. Another player Kevin Byard, a safety for the Tennessee Titans,received an $10,000 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct when he celebrated an end-zone reception on the opponent’s midfield logo.
As these displays are usually encouraged by fans and discouraged by the league, it’s hard to decide which side is in the right. These end zone celebrations have become a sort of entertainment value for fans to see how their favorite players celebrate their touchdowns. Some even becoming a signature for the player like Tim Tebow’s “Tebowing” where the player took a knee before games and when he scored. So while these players are looking for their signature stunt in the endzone, a majority of the time they care more about the fan interaction than the actual issues that come with it.
When Hill jumped into the stands and flipped the camera around, he could have easily hurt a fan or caused a riot or even gotten himself hurt in the adrenaline rush of it all. The same goes for Byard. Adrenaline and tensions are ever present on the field and a stunt like that could easily anger the opposing team and cause a disturbance on the field. In any case, if there is a safety risk to the players or the fans, these endzones need some sort of limitation.
There are some celebrations like the one of Ben Watson, a New Orleans Saints tight end, who used the time to announce that him and his wife are expecting a child, which got too harsh of a judgement call. This has been his endzone celebration on two occasions. Once in 2009, when he got fined for using the ball as a prop and last week, when he used the ball the same way, he wasn’t fined. Watson credits this to changes in the league standards but there is more to it. As more advanced displays in the endzone have been demonstrated, the league has lessened the strictness of what they deem unsportsmanlike. If you compare it in retrospect, putting the ball under your shirt and rubbing it to indicate a pregnancy or standing on another team’s logo have two completely different connotations.
It’s human nature to celebrate successes, especially in a competitive atmosphere like football but when the line is crossed and you begin to make a spectacle of yourself or crossing the boundary of being a “good sport” there needs to be a line drawn somewhere in the sand. The fact that there aren’t any clear conditions drawn out by the league only makes the issue worse and until they do so, expect some more creative displays of celebrations and the fines that come with them.