Just a couple of years after the NFL finally relented on the ridiculous boomer mentality restrictions on celebrations, it looks like we might be at the beginning of another version of the same slippery slope, now with taunting.

The NFL is going to crack down on taunting this year. The rules are based around safety, essentially using the argument that taunting heightens emotions, causes retaliation, injuries, and fights. On the surface, it looks somewhat reasonable. Obviously, fights are bad. They look bad. They have bad results. They are bad optics. They delay games. Any attempt to restrict the sort of fight that occurred between OBJ and Josh Norman from a few years ago sounds good, right? That was a horrid mess of a game and looked terrible for everyone involved. From a basic level, it makes sense to try and keep things civil.

But looking at it practically, what problem are they actually solving? This rule doesn’t feel necessary. The NFL does not have a taunting/fight epidemic. Fights are rare. Taunts aren’t even that common. The rule feels like an overblown response to the pretty reasonable taunt by Antoine Winfield Jr. in the Superbowl. That taunt didn’t start a fight and it was about as blatant a taunt as you can get, in the most emotionally charged game of the entire year. The most it got out of Tyreek was some trash talk. Nobody but the refs gave a shit that it happened outside already very bitter KC fans swallowing their misery in a lost cause. It still got talked about though, so it must be a problem! It isn’t. Taunting is not a problem. Few players do it, and they usually do it after plays where it feels warranted. Are we really about to flag players for flexing their biceps after making a good play? Seriously? Come on. This is a fucking waste of a rule.

Not only is it an unnecessary rule being applied to an almost non-existent problem, but I have extreme doubts the rule is written with explicit guidelines and will instead be subject to the subjective whims of the refs. If you are going to have a rule like this, there needs to be a clearly defined line that cannot be crossed, but taunting is a grey area, and what one ref might interpret as a taunt another might interpret as a celebration of self. If the refs actually decide to enforce this bullshit instead of willfully ignore it like they do other rules (lowering the head rule, the PI rule disaster), I can almost guarantee a team is going to lose a game because a player flexes in celebration vaguely in the direction of another player and the ref decides it’s a taunt, where earlier in the game they ignored a similar situation. The hypocrisy will be pointed out all over social media and the NFL will issue an apology but it won’t matter by then. It’ll be against the Lions. It’s always the fucking Lions.

You can just see it happening. Players do cool shit and celebrate all the time, but if an opposing player just happens to be within range of what a ref perceives as being a recipient, that player can be flagged. It’s stupid. It’s subjective, stupid bullshit. I see two outcomes for this rule. They basically completely avoid calling the penalty to begin with because taunts aren’t common and most are pretty tame (and we all forget the rule exists), or they get overly litigious and piss everyone off similar to how the celebration penalties got out of hand until the fans revolted. I think the former is more likely, thankfully, but we’ll see.

Most fights in the NFL are started by unnecessary hits and retaliation, not taunts. If we are going to legislate taunts, they need to be obviously vulgar acts that aren’t good for a family audience. I can understand not wanting to see crotch grabbing, jerk off motions or middle fingers on a broadcast, but again, this just isn’t very common to begin with, and we shouldn’t make flexing a bicep illegal just to ensure they don’t happen. It’s No Fun league bullshit. Taunts are a longstanding sports tradition and they have their own justice system. If you taunt a player, you have now exposed yourself to a retaliatory taunt when that player styles on you. You give a player a peace sign as you run by them? Now they give it to you after breaking up a pass. Justice has been served. Revenge is sweet. We do not need the refs involved, all that does is make everything worse. Let them play.