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Absurd NFL crackdown on taunting rule continues with recent Clyde Edwards-Helaire fine

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cassius Marsh, Roger Goodell, NFL

I don’t know if you’re heard about it before, but the NFL is very strict on taunting nowadays. Players left and right are getting fined for taunting more than any other season. As The Ringer noted, there were only 19 taunting calls in the NFL in the last two seasons. Up until Week 9, there have been 27 such calls. TWENTY. SEVEN.

The most recent victim of the harsh NFL taunting rule was Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. In their big Week 11 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Edwards-Helaire pointed at Cowboys linebacker Luke Gifford. Clearly, the referees thought that severe emotional harm was done to Gifford, as they issued him a taunting penalty and a fine of roughly $10 thousand.

While this one is an obvious taunting call, some of the taunting calls in the NFL that have been made are… questionable at best. The most egregious call happened during Monday Night Football, when Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh was called for taunting after… this horrible act he did.

Yes, you saw correctly my friend. Marsh got called for taunting, after he stared down the air and bumped into an official accidentally. The NFL rulebook states that a taunting penalty is issued when there is:

“The use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.”

Fair enough. It’s not only the NFL that has taunting rules enforced. For example, the NBA also has a strict taunting rule that they implement. It’s why players like Dikembe Mutombo and Serge Ibaka have had to do their finger wag motions to the crowd. LeBron James also got issued for taunting after he stared down Jason Terry on this play.

However, the NFL’s implementation of taunting has been… wonky at best. There have been some legitimate arguments for a taunt (the Clyde Edwards-Helaire taunting might be the most correct call this season), but there have been plenty of questionable taunting calls that have changed the game. Case in point: this Elijhaa Penny taunting call.

Clearly, Penny wasn’t taunting any Kansas City player. He was only pointing downfield, as most receivers do after making a first down. However, since Penny accidentally pointed at an opposing player, referees decided to throw him a taunting flag. The motion clearly wasn’t meant to taunt a player, though…

The justification for these rules, according to the coaches, is simple: they want to be a role model. Here’s Bears coach Matt Nagy’s take on the taunting rules days after his linebacker Marsh was issued a fine:

“People watch, and people want to see a little bit of respect and a little bit of doing things the right way. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but there’s young kids right now that are watching games… I’m a firm believer in respect and just kids growing and watching and we have a huge platform as leaders. Players and coaches. Let’s understand what the rules are, let’d do it the right way.”

Which, fair enough. You do have to set a good example for the kids watching. However, if you’re going to implement these rules… at least do it properly, man. The way the NFL is implementing their taunting rule right now takes away the fun of watching the sport, and influences games way too much.

Hopefully, the NFL starts to ease their implementation on taunting rules. Because if this keeps up, they may never be able to shed their “No Fun League” moniker.