The case against taunting

January 19, 2022

During a recent football game, a safety tried to make a tackle on a running back headed toward the end zone. Both men collided at full speed. The running back sprang to his feet while the safety laid on the ground almost motionless.

The running back then walked past his fallen opponent and gestured to the defensive player to stay down, but not out of concern for his well-being. It was more like when people tell boxers to stay down because if they get up, they’ll have to take more punishment.

The running back then had some choice words for his opponent’s teammates as the network went to commercial break. Cameras returned to a scene where the safety was on a stretcher ready to be loaded onto an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. Players from both teams had dropped to a knee and were visibly praying, including the running back involved. 

The glaring omission from this entire episode was a penalty flag from the officials for taunting. Some people online and on TV defended the running back by saying he didn’t know how badly the safety was hurt. That doesn’t matter. What good does it do to disrespect your opponent after you’ve clearly won? 

Taunting rules are not anti-fun. They are anti-disrespect. All the tangible things that we love about sports – making the incredible play, scoring the game-wining goal, and winning should be enough. There’s no need to disrespect your opponent. How you treat people is bigger than any play or any game.  And it’s what people remember long after everyone has to hang them up for good. 

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