Scoring touchdowns is an integral part of winning football games in the NFL. Otherwise, kickers would get paid more. But, celebrating the raison d’être of the sport is becoming increasingly difficult for NFL players. On Tuesday, it got even harder, as the crossbar slam dunk of the ball, one of the few remaining expressions of joy allowed on the gridiron, was reclassified as a misdemeanor offense. That’s according to the NFL’s head of officials, Dean Blandino, who told “The Dan Patrick Show” that starting next season touchdown dunks would result in a 15-yard penalty.
Long gone are the carefree days of the Ickey Shuffle. The reigning in of touchdown celebrations by the league hasn’t come overnight, and, the Washington Post points out, the “NFL cracked down on celebrations and banned the use of props a few years ago, but grandfathered in the Lambeau Leap and the crossbar dunk.” The crossbar, however, has been downgraded to prop status.
The general trajectory of the NFL’s tightening of the rules on celebrations has been to prohibit taunting directed at opponents. It’s hard to see how a slam-dunk fits into that category, but that’s not to say that the endzone dunk is necessarily victimless. Last season, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham managed to knock the goalpost crooked, delaying the game while the grounds crew repaired the damage.
The rule change adds to the growing canon of NFL no-no’s. Here’s how things stood before the start of last season:
"Violations of (b) will be penalized if any of the acts are committed directly at an opponent. These acts include but are not limited to: sack dances; home run swing; incredible hulk; spiking 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.”
Handing the ball to the ref and high fiving your teammate quietly is still allowed.