On Tuesday, the NFL announced that they would strictly enforce taunting penalties in the 2021 season. Two taunting penalties from an individual player in a game will result in an automatic ejection, with fines and suspensions possible as well.
And if Sunday’s preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts is any indication, it really, really won’t take much to be called for taunting.
Colts running back Benny LeMay carried a a bunch of Carolina defenders several yards for what ultimately turned into a 14-yard run. It was a fantastic run featuring incredible effort, and LeMay is an undrafted free agent (from the 2020 NFL Draft) who needs moments like this to have a chance to make the Colts’ roster (or to impress other teams that may be interested in signing him). There was plenty of reason for him to be excited and celebrate the run.
Well, after he briefly celebrated and said very few words trash-talking an opposing player, he was flagged for taunting.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) August 15, 2021
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 15, 2021
So we can’t show emotion? https://t.co/WyvHtYVVS2
— Tyler Lockett (@TDLockett12) August 15, 2021
Unless LeMay said something completely unacceptable, this is an absolutely ridiculous flag. It’s very mild celebrating, and the game is supposed to be fun. It’s hard to *not* show a lot of emotion in the moment after a play like that, and trash-talking — and again, LeMay’s appeared to be maybe one second’s worth — is part of sports at all levels- even the rec center or playground.
LeMay later scored a touchdown and kept the celebrating to a minimum. After all, he could’ve been ejected by showing some emotion (eyeroll).
.@Colts RB Benny LeMay walks in for 6⃣
— NFL (@NFL) August 15, 2021
If the taunting penalties are as weak as the one LeMay and the Colts experienced on Sunday when the NFL regular season comes along, that’s a big problem. Now, as we’ve seen with rules emphasis in the past, sometimes the frequency of the calls cools off eventually. Hopefully that proves to be the case here.