Beginning in the 2017 season, the NFL, criticized occasionally as “The No Fun League,” will allow players to have a little more fun after scoring a touchdown.
The league will allow players to celebrate touchdowns in groups again, use the ball as a prop and celebrate on the ground. In past years, those celebrations were banned by the league, which said it wanted to avoid physical confrontations and promote sportsmanship.
Now, the league is still frowning on what it calls “offensive demonstrations,” prolonged celebrations that delay the game and celebrations directed at an opponent. Those will be penalized.
This likely means Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown twerking after touchdowns will still draw a flag. Brown openly wondered on Twitter if he’ll be able to continue doing it legally.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shared the rule changes -- along with a video of Panther receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess demonstrating a celebration that previously would be flag-worthy -- with fans in a letter Tuesday.
“We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” Goodell said in an announcement to fans. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.”
Former New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn helped change the touchdown rules when, in 2003, he scored and ran toward the goal post where he’d hidden a cell phone. He made a call on national television that ultimately cost him a $30,000 fine -- and it helped usher in a major rules shift.
Horn said he feels the league is responding to fans who want to see the celebrations and wonders why league frowns upon end-zone celebrations but allows video games, such as Madden NFL, to show them.
“You've got all these superstars who are making millions of dollars, and you've got fans who are loving the celebrations,” said Horn, who played for three NFL teams before retiring after the 2007 season. “If you can bring a little spice back to what people really want and stop being a dictatorship over what guys do, you're not hurting anyone.
“That's what the younger generation wants. I don't think you can talk to one kid who doesn't like seeing the guys act a fool when they score a touchdown,” the retired receiver said. “Maybe Tommy, who's watching the ... game, maybe he won't turn the ... channel.”
Horn, who coaches youth football in Louisiana, said he has noticed a deterioration of interest among young people for the game. He said his players and his four sons began turning off NFL games on television to turn on an NFL video game. On Madden, players can celebrate and there aren’t long penalties or commerical delays.
“You have kids playing Madden being bored watching a Sunday game at home,” Horn said. “They're just looking for the excitement.”
The Bengals’ Marvin Lewis, who coached serial end-zone celebrators Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, opposes the new rule. Lewis says the NFL is a team game that “shouldn’t give into individual celebrations.”
But Lewis seems to be in the minority.
The Associated Press contributed