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Will NFL make taunting a "point of emphasis," again?

Before Ravens receiver Zay Flowers fumbled short of the end zone on Sunday, he cost his team 15 yards of field position with a three-pronged act of taunting — shoving the defender, spinning the ball at him, and standing over him.

It was so blatant that it had to be called. And the fact is that, throughout much of the season, officials have not been calling taunting when they should.

In 2021, the NFL made taunting a point of emphasis. The thinking (whether you agree with it or not) is that taunting after one play will make the player who was taunted more likely to look for a way to get back at the one who did the taunting. Even if it happens with the taunted player taking a clean, legal shot later in the game, removing the incentive to make that hit reduces the chance that the player will do so.

Throughout 2023, we noticed multiple examples of behavior after a given play that, in the past, would have drawn a taunting foul. This year, they didn't. On the surface, that means the officials haven't been enforcing the rules the way they previously were. Which is what results in a "point of emphasis."

(Basically, "point of emphasis" is a fancy way of saying, "Hey, officials, you haven't been doing your job. How about you start doing your job?")

There's reason to think the NFL has no problem with the relaxed enforcement of the rule against taunting. This year, the NFL opted for full transparency when it comes to the fines imposed on a weekly basis. There wasn't a rash of fines for taunting that wasn't flagged during the games, even though there were numerous occasions of players doing things after a play that had triggered taunting fouls and fines in the past.

So while it seems that the league might need to remind officials once again to do their jobs when it comes to enforcing the letter of the taunting law, the lack of fines implies that the league perhaps realizes that the obsessive focus on taunting in 2021 was a bit too much.

Going forward, maybe only the most blatant examples of it — like what Flowers did on Sunday — will be flagged and fined.