Celebrating in the NFL: Not That Big of a Deal

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Respect for the game is held at different levels of importance for different sports. Baseball players, for example, consider respect for the game to be of utmost importance with brawls breaking out over simple acts of staring down the pitcher or flipping one’s bat after a home run. Actual large celebrations spur even larger confrontations to the point that they almost never occur.

Football does not have such high standards in regards to respect for the game. National Football League players are notorious for excessive celebrations. From Chad Johnson’s countless outrageous, prop-filled displays to Randy Moss’ mooning the crowd, the reputation of NFL players is not a good one when it comes to classy celebrations.

After the NFL implemented a rule to limit celebrating, the scale of celebrations has gone down but there is still controversy regarding these mostly light-hearted displays of excitement.

Most recently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been under fire for dancing in the endzone after scoring a rushing touchdown late in a game against the Tennessee Titans. Newton ran to the back of the endzone and performed the “Dab,” a new dance move made popular by Newton as well as other high profile athletes, including Lebron James. Titans linebacker Avery Williamson took offense to the dancing and got in Newton’s face about it. Newton responded by hitting the “Dab” one more time.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is known for celebrating after scoring touchdowns, but recently his antics have come under fire. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is known for celebrating after scoring touchdowns, but recently his antics have come under fire. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Newton’s celebration was, for the most part, harmless and, rightfully so, did not receive a penalty for his actions. His dance moves, especially his reaction to Williamson’s anger, went viral on social media, with countless tweets calling Newton a “savage.” Newton’s initial celebration does not deserve criticism, but his taunting aimed at Williamson has sparked various discussions on the extent of celebrating in the NFL.

A lady better known now as “Tennessee Mom” wrote a letter to Newton, which has since gone viral, criticizing his celebration. The letter called Newton out on the fact that he is supposed to be a “role model” and is “expected to make appearances, support charities and inspire young kids to pursue your sport and all sports.”

This letter has been picked apart for hours on SportsCenter and NFL Network with the majority of the response being negative. Fellow players, both on the Panthers and other teams, have rallied to Newton’s side, supporting the quarterback and criticizing “Tennessee Mom.”

These players, as well as Newton, have it right. While the celebrations in the NFL should not go to the extent of Johnson’s, a little excitement in the form of a dance move or signature pose should not be discouraged at all in the league.

In a league sometimes referred to as the “No Fun League,” the NFL should be completely fine with players injecting a little flair into their post-touchdown behavior. Of course, direct taunting or really excessive celebrations should be discouraged, however small dances, like Newton’s, or other celebratory gestures, like Aaron Rodgers doing the “Discount Double-Check” move or Rob Gronkowski spiking the football, should be allowed. These gestures never hurt anybody and make the game more enjoyable to watch as well as allowing players to put a personal touch on their play.

The NFL’s arguments are valid against celebrations. Yes, the focus should be on the game itself instead of the celebrations and the players are supposed to be role models and encourage sportsmanship to younger viewers, but these smaller, harmless celebrations do not prohibit any of these things. Allowing players to celebrate would drive up viewership and create even more opportunities for endorsement deals for both the league and the players.

All in all, there should not even be an argument about celebrations. People on both sides of the spectrum should simply have fun with the game of football. In all seriousness, the NFL has much larger issues in its organization to be worried about, from domestic violence to murder to drug use. If the league, and its critics and media outlets, places a priority on celebrations as its top issue instead of those other major problems, then there needs to be a leadership change and a major priority shift.

Football is a game and players should be allowed to have fun with playing the sport they have loved since they were little kids. Celebrations should be allowed and the rules against them should be relaxed because after all, there are bigger issues that should be in the spotlight and up for discussion.

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