As controversy surrounds the NFL’s point of emphasis on taunting calls, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera — a member of the league’s competition committee — is once again rushing to the rule’s defense.
“We’ve had this example where one guy taunts a guy and then the guy comes back for a little payback and the next thing you know, you’ve got a big fight on your hands,” Rivera said, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “You’ve got guys coming from left field hitting each other. And that’s really what, to me I think, the referees are relevant for — they’re just trying to get it quieted down.
“And that’s really what ‚ I mean, you can do the celebration. They sent a tape out explaining exactly what’s taunting and what’s not. I think if you look at the tape and you follow the tape, then it makes sense.”
The NFLPA feels differently, however.
Players association president J.C. Tretter criticized the rule, which has drawn 11 flags through the first two weeks of the season. That is the same number of taunting penalties that were called in all of 2020.
Yet, Rivera insisted it is all about preventing things from escalating to fights.
“We’re not trying to stop the players from having fun,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure we don’t end up with a brawl on our hands. Because that’s the other thing, we don’t want that. This is a great team sport. We’ve got a great fan base. People enjoy watching the games. And there are some that like watching the fights, but we don’t need the fights. We really don’t. And we don’t need anybody getting hurt unnecessarily.”
Prior to the season, Rivera defended the competition committee and league’s point of emphasis, explaining that it sets a bad example for children watching the game, which he also reiterated.
“And, again, whether we want to [be] or not, we are examples,” he said. “We’re role models. So, if you’re going to do something, do it within the rules. Get up and do your ball drop, do your dab, or your dance, or whatever. But don’t do it toward somebody. Don’t step over somebody or drag your leg over somebody. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”