Should NFL Players be Fined
for On-Field "Archery?" Should NFL Players be Fined for On-Field "Archery?"

Archery has grown in popularity recently thanks, in part, to its increased presence on television and in movies. But although archery is more welcome than ever in backyards and living rooms, it’s not welcome on the gridiron – at least in the NFL.

Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman made headlines after the NFL fined him for simulating shooting a bow and arrow on the field in celebration. When he first fired his imaginary arrow during a game in Dallas, he received a warning. But when he released another imaginary arrow while playing against the Cleveland Browns, that faux shot into an imaginary bull’s-eye cost him $10,000. That’s one expensive fake shot!

Rules governing “unsportsmanlike celebrations” have evolved in the NFL since 1984, when the league started defining illegal celebrations as “any prolonged, excessive, premeditated celebration by individual players or groups of players.” In 2006, the list expanded to include celebrations where players use a prop (like the football or a goal post), removed their helmets or separated their feet from the field (i.e., jumping). Teams were also penalized yardage for such infractions. This year the NFL is cracking down further on celebrations.

New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates a successful play by drawing and firing an imaginary bow and arrow. Photo Credit: Chris Graythem/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Brandin Cooks celebrates a successful play by drawing and firing an imaginary bow and arrow. Photo Credit: Chris Graythem/Getty Images

Pittsburg’s Antonio Brown was fined $12,154 for “twerking” upon reaching the Redskins’ end-zone in September after officials ruled the dance “sexually suggestive.” Other dancing celebrations, such as Victor Cruz’s salsa dance, were penalized as unsportsmanlike conduct, but carried no fine. Norman isn’t the only player to draw and release an imaginary bow, but he’s the first to be fined for it. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce have also drawn air-bows in celebration this year, but weren’t flagged or fined. Norman is appealing the $10K penalty.

One might wonder who thinks firing pretend arrows on the sidelines is a no-no, especially when the player aims the arrow into the air rather than toward an opposing player. The black-and-white definition on Page 61 of the Official Playing Rules of the NFL, Rule 12, Section 3, is ambiguous. Was Norman’s channeling of his inner Avenger truly threatening or taunting, as articles (b) and (c) suggest, or is it merely an excessive, premeditated or choreographed celebration, as articles (d) and (e) suggest?

The rulebook does not specifically mention the bow-and-arrow celebration as a penalty, but neither is twerking or even twirling your simulated six-shooter, or blowing imaginary smoke from the imaginary barrel. But pantomiming a throat slash, a machine-gun salute and something called the ‘incredible hulk’ (copyright and capitalization ignored) is indeed referenced in the rulebook.

So, no Hulk, no Hawkeye. Got it? It’s possible that shooting invisible webs from your wrists will be penalized, too. After all, it seems the NFL disdains comic-book heroes.

Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Eric Berry famously celebrated an interception – his first since returning to the NFL after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma – in a 2015 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo Credit: TodaysPigSkins.com

Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Eric Berry famously celebrated an interception – his first since returning to the NFL after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma – in a 2015 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo Credit: TodaysPigSkins.com

Roger Goodell and the NFL have seemingly ignored the public debate over in-game celebrations. While many armchair quarterbacks see celebration as a logical expression of satisfaction on the field and a builder of morale and momentum, the NFL and a few grumpy pundits staunchly disagree, particularly about the perceived danger and promotion of violence that scary sports like archery conjure in young, naive minds (sarcasm intended).

So what do you think? Is firing a fictional flaming arrow into the air as unsafe or insensitive as the NFL thinks, or is the NFL missing the target?

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