By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Of all the actions that could hurt the image of the NFL, the following seem the least likely to do so: Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham dunking over the crossbar of the goalpost, Wes Welker making a snow angel, Victor Cruz salsa dancing, or various other players spinning a ball after scoring a touchdown.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino announced Tuesday that dunking over the crossbars will be prohibited beginning in the 2014 season. The rules ban players from using the football as a prop in a celebration, but traditionally the dunk – propagated by one of the game’s best tight ends, Tony Gonzalez – had been exempt.
“The NFL says no more dunking over the goalpost,” Gonzalez tweeted Tuesday. “This one I don’t understand. Looks like I got out just in time.”
Graham also protested the new enforcement of the rule on social media, tweeting, “NOOOO!” and retweeting the sentiments of others that included the popular phrase, “No Fun League.”
While Johnson has not taken to Twitter to vent, teammate Reggie Bush anticipates a reaction.
Detroit’s Joseph Fauria, best known for his dancing after touchdowns, could not believe it either.
Johnson and Graham will need to find new ways to celebrate, but they should not consider the snow angel if they get the opportunity. Welker got penalized 15 yards and fined $10,000 for those excited antics. They would also need to be careful if they decided to imitate Cruz’s beloved salsa routine and Fauria’s N Sync-inspired moves, according to Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, Note 3, which includes dancing with many other celebrations that are not allowed depending on proximity to opposing players.
“Violations … will be penalized if any of the acts are committed directly at an opponent,” the rule book reads. “These acts include, but are not limited to: sack dances; home run swing; incredible hulk; spiking the ball; spinning the ball; throwing or shoving the ball; pointing; pointing the ball; verbal taunting; military salute; standing over an opponent (prolonged and with provocation); or dancing.”
If one watches the video of Welker’s snow angel, it does not appear that his gesture was “committed directly” at anyone, but that did not stop the official from whistling Welker and the league from fining him. However, players are also prohibited from engaging in celebrations while on the ground, which is where Welker ran afoul of the rules.
At least one former player, Jerry Azumah of the Chicago Bears, finds these rules bogus.
“No Taunting I get but No Celebrations?” Azumah tweeted in August. “You work all week to do your job on Gameday & when you do you cant show Emotion? #NoFunLeague”
While the NFL has every right to do what it feels necessary to protect its image, it seems odd that the league has banned even some of the most innocuous celebrations. Many fans can understand the league wanting to crack down on actions like Randy Moss pretending to moon the crowd or Terrell Owens whipping out a Sharpie to sign the football, but a dunk, dance or snow angel hardly seems equivalent in offensiveness.
If anything, such celebrations would appear to boost the appeal of the NFL, not decrease it. Neither the NFL nor the NFLPA could immediately be reached for comment.