November 27, 2011
So far this season we've seen a Detroit Lions defender celebrate a sack of Tim Tebow(notes) by Tebowing. We've seen Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) imitate LeBron James' chalk toss in front of a stunned crowd in Cleveland. But as far as mocking football celebrations go, none was as vicious as Stevie Johnson(notes) shooting himself in the leg and then acting like a plane crashing into the ground while playing against Plaxico Burress(notes) and the New York Jets.
Johnson celebrated a second-quarter touchdown against the team by briefly dancing the in the end zone and then shooting himself in the leg, a la the incident which led to Burress getting sent to prison for violating New York's stringent gun laws. He then stretched his arms out wide, imitating a jet, and sputtered to the ground. Guns and plane crashes! High comedy!
The latter part of the celebration drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty because Johnson fell to the ground. The first part of it will almost certainly get him a heavy fine, if not a suspension. Roger Goodell doesn't tolerate much and mocking an opponent's accidental, self-inflicted shooting isn't something for which he's going to stand. The NFL can't abide by players celebrating and laughing by using fake guns.
That being said, it may have been mean, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh the first few times I watched the clip. The celebration was in awful taste, it might earn him a deserved suspension and I'm going to wager Johnson will regret ever having done it the instant he steps off the field and gets questioned about it from the media. But, come on, Plaxico shot himself in the leg at a club! If that's not something that's ripe for mocking, I don't know what is. The plane crash was in poorer taste but let's not assign the celebration any greater meaning. Sometimes Jets players spread out their arms like a jet to celebrate. Johnson was mocking that, not victims of air disasters.
Update: After the game, Johnson said he regretted the celebration, not because it was offensive toward Burress, but because the 15-yard penalty cost his team. "It was very stupid by me," he told NFL Network's Albert Breer. "I feel like it cost us the game."
Burress didn't particularly mind either. "I've seen worse," he said. "I've heard worse."
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