In the debate of whether or not NFL players should be penalized for excessive celebration, not much attention is paid to those who actually deliver those penalties.
The referees who actually make those calls aren’t thrilled about excessive celebration penalties and even they want the NFL to alter the rules.
Talking to Sirius XM, NFL Referees Association head Scott Green said that the NFL puts referees in a tough spot in calling excessive celebration penalties due to the arbitrary nature of the rules. Each referee has a different tolerance of what is deemed “excessive” and I don’t blame him in thinking that.
“Nothing is worse than someone going 80 yards for a touchdown and then we’re trying to figure out does that warrant a flag for what he’s doing in the end zone,” Green said. “We don’t really enjoy that. If we could get to a point where it would simply be fines by the league, that would be great. The issue we’ll still have is that guys can get pretty creative out there. The question of whether it’s a foul or not a foul, hopefully we’ll get closer to more of a black-and-white situation.”
This is a big reason why people hate referees and feel they do a terrible job. For the most part, they do a great job reffing the game, it’s just that the standards for what’s a foul by one referee may be different than another and that could lead to someone believing certain referees made a terrible call.
In some instances, like pass interference or holding, this is unavoidable. Even with clear language explaining what constitutes pass interference, some referees are strict or loose depending on their interpretation of the rule. It’s possible that neither are wrong but it would explain why you or I would get pissed off when our team is on the wrong end of a penalty call.
When it comes to something like excessive celebration, the NFL is just asking for referees to have the thankless job of figuring out what’s excessive or not. Unless the NFL literally maps out that a player cannot do more than four thrusts in the end zone, everything will be down to an individual referee’s interpretation. The NFL is just asking for trouble if that’s the case.
By making the penalty a postgame fine, that could be a fair compromise for all parties. Referees can focus on the game and make calls that actually affect on-field play. Players can celebrate knowing they won’t hurt their team but still be punished if they overdo it. Fans who are into it will see players celebrating while those who aren’t know that players would still get fined. And the NFL can fine players and keep things, for the most part, in check. All the while, the same people would review all the celebrations and act accordingly, hopefully making the rulings more consistent.
This doesn’t seem to be what the NFL is interested in and will not do postgame fines for excessive celebrations. Even though most NFL players make millions, many of them start to listen when they see their game checks with less money. You could argue that it hasn’t done enough to deter players from leading with their helmet and potentially causing head injuries but at least that’s during the game and players are reacting to the moment. It’s much easier to stop and think that if they get fined $50k for a celebration, they may not do that or at the very least, tone down their celebration. And that would satisfy the zebras.