One of the major talking points this NFL season has been the league’s crackdown on taunting. Fans and media members have largely been been opposed to the uptick in unsportsmanlike penalties, making the argument that the punishments remove some of the passion from the game.
However, there are still a few important voices in the NFL that agree with the league’s efforts to get rid of taunting.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy came out firmly in defense of the NFL’s new emphasis earlier this week. He explained that he wants players around the league to set an example for younger fans who may be watching the games.
“People watch, and people want to see a little bit of respect and a little bit of doing things the right way,” Nagy said, via ProFootballTalk. “It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but there’s young kids right now that are watching games, and what happens is you go to one of these sporting events and you might see some imitation going on that’s taking it over the top.
“I’m a firm believer in respect and just kids growing and watching and we have a huge platform as leaders. Players and coaches. Let’s understand what the rules are, let’d do it the right way. Let’s still have fun — these guys are still having fun and not taunting. You can still have a great time. But let’s stay within the rules as we do it.”
Nagy isn’t the only one to make this specific point this season, but his comments on taunting made him the latest target for those who disagree with the league’s crackdown.
Numerous fans and media members took to Twitter to poke holes in the head coach’s argument.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) November 18, 2021
This is such a weak argument imo https://t.co/ProAVMMcpr
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 18, 2021
😂😂 the “but the kids” arguments are so lame. We grew up with segments highlighting vicious hits that knocked out players. Are we going around our daily lives trucking random people because we saw it on jacked up? https://t.co/NgrReqdQsp
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 18, 2021
— UMKC Dot (@cdotharrison) November 18, 2021
Others around the NFL world decided to poke fun at Nagy, saying that the Bears offense during his tenure has been far more damaging to young football fans than taunting has been this season.
Nothing could be more damaging to young kids than watching the Bears offense over the last few years https://t.co/7fZCkO99Jt
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 18, 2021
Based on his play calling, the taunting is adding respect to Bears games https://t.co/yjgEXhpIvf
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) November 18, 2021
What the Bears put on the field is way more offensive than any taunting penalty. https://t.co/WtwqIrUsnu
— erin alyce (@herooine) November 18, 2021
Matt’s doing his best to limit taunting opportunities for his offense. https://t.co/08GJcKsefY
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) November 18, 2021
Nagy’s comments are particularly head-scratching considering the Bears were on the wrong end of one of the league’s most egregious taunting calls this year.
On Nov. 8 against the Steelers, veteran linebacker Cassius Marsh was penalized for taunting after he sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a seven-yard loss on third down. Marsh jogged innocuously away from the play, but was given an unsportsmanlike penalty for moving in the direction of Pittsburgh’s sideline.
The Steelers got a first down as a result of the flag and scored later in the drive. Pittsburgh won the game 29-27.
Nagy’s comments this week were no doubt well-intentioned, but there should be a middle ground to reach in the argument over taunting penalties. While there’s clearly a line that shouldn’t be crossed, flagging players for innocent celebrations or displays of passion seems to be a mistake.
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