In Sunday night’s game between New England and Arizona, former Patriot Chandler Jones recovered a New England fumble that gave the Cardinals great field position. Afterwards, he and teammate D.J. Swearinger did a little dance:
That dance drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, with the referee citing that it was a “choreographed demonstration.” That pushed the Cardinals back 15 yards. It didn’t matter — they scored a touchdown anyway — but it was a big call for a seemingly piddly dance.
It’s true: the NFL does outlaw choreographed moves. Here’s the official wording outlawing excessive celebrations in the NFL’s rulebook.
There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:
e. Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground. A celebration or demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate or demonstrate after a warning from an official.
f. Two or more players engaging in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations or demonstrations.
Jones and Swearinger’s celebration wasn’t prolonged — it took about three seconds, tops. And it wasn’t excessive: They weren’t taunting and they weren’t doing anything particularly wild. The thing that was illegal about it was specifically that it was choreographed.
I can understand why the NFL outlaws celebrations that delay games or incite tension between opponents. But what’s so bad about choreography?
You’ll also note that there’s no mention of choreography in the section of the rulebook pertaining to an individual player’s celebration. Why is choreography illegal when two players do it, but not, say, when Victor Cruz does a perfect rendition of the salsa after a touchdown? Cruz’s dance is a boon to the league — it’s featured in advertisements, and makes him beloved amongst fans. Why does the NFL think group dances are something that should be banned? (Please do not additionally ban Cruz’s dance.)
And how, exactly, is an NFL ref supposed to determine that something is choreographed? Choreography, by definition, implies that a dance was planned out beforehand. But when two players bust out a stunningly beautiful routine after a score, who is the NFL to say that they designed the dance beforehand? Does the NFL not believe that two humans can feel each other’s rhythms and create beautiful physical art?
Does the NFL not remember when Ferris Bueller led the entirety of downtown Chicago in a spur-of-the-moment dance routine to “Twist and Shout”? Does the NFL believe that Ferris had planned on visiting that specific parade, singing that specific song and that all the people of Chicago had pre-planned for this event? HE DIDN’T. IT WAS A SPUR OF THE MOMENT THING, A MEMORABLE PART OF A FILM THAT CAPTURES THE YOUTHFUL IDEA THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE ON ANY GIVEN DAY. Come on, Roger Goodell.
Anyway, I got sidetracked a bit, but my point is: It’s pretty dumb that the NFL bans choreography. Right?