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The NFL tried to make its new touchdown celebration policy as clear as possible while allowing for fun emotional outbursts.
It took only until Week 2 of the season for that policy to get tested thanks to Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce.
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Late in in the Chiefs’ 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelce scored a go-ahead touchdown by leaping over a few defenders at the goal line. After winding up in the middle of a bunch of his teammates, Kelce broke free and began running down the sideline flapping his arms like, an, um, eagle.
Welcome to the celebration gray area. According to the new rules, “offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized.” Now the NFL will have to determine if Kelce’s movements amount to him mocking his opponent — again, the Eagles — or if he was simply bragging about his ability to defy gravity.
Given Kelce’s tendency for unsportsmanlike penalties — he was already assessed one on Sunday for taunting — the league might not be too lenient here, which means a fine would be less than surprising.
Unfortunately, that puts the NFL squarely back in the position it was hoping to avoid this year. Kelce’s touchdown came at a huge moment in a revenge game of sorts with his coach Andy Reid facing his former team. He soared into the end zone and then had the gall to pretend like he was flying during his celebration. Does the NFL want to say that’s unacceptable? Is it only unacceptable if your opponent is the Eagles? What about the Atlanta Falcons? Or Seattle Seahawks?
It took two weeks for the NFL to find itself with another celebration controversy. How it responds will set the standard for the remainder of the season.
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