Do NFL Players Have A Right To Be Upset About The League Not Fining Ezekiel Elliott For His Salvation Army Celebration?
During the Cowboys game against the Buccaneers game on Sunday night, Dallas rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott set a new rookie record for the Cowboys by rushing for his 13th touchdown this season. He celebrated by running behind the end zone, jumping into a Salvation Army kettle, and peeking out from inside of it. He wasn’t able to escape the watchful eye of the game’s referees, though, and he was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for celebrating by using a prop.
After the game, Elliott called it the “perfect” celebration and didn’t seem all that bothered by the flag he received, even though his head coach Jason Garrett was not happy with the penalty. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also seemed pleased with the celebration and even said that he hoped the NFL would try and fine him for it. He threatened to take the league to court if they attempted to do it. He added that he thought it was “just wonderful” for Elliott to give the Salvation Army a bunch of free publicity—and Elliott added that he planned to match whatever fine he received from the NFL in the form of a donation to the organization.
That fine never came. On Monday morning, the NFL made the decision not to fine Elliott for jumping into the Salvation Army kettle. It seems the league didn’t want to have to deal with the backlash that would certainly come if they fined a guy for doing something that resulted in a lot of good. And while that decision was welcomed by Elliott and the Cowboys—he announced that he would make a donation anyway—some of Elliott’s fellow NFL players weren’t thrilled with the outcome of his celebration.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. jumped on Twitter and said that, if he had been the one to celebrate a touchdown by jumping into the Salvation Army kettle, he believes the NFL would have handled it differently. “That’s funny there’s no fine for that. I could only imagine if I was the one to do it. Just bein honest,” he wrote, before responding to a tweet that Giants punter Brad Wing sent out agreeing with what OBJ said. “It’s just crazy bro, u kno me…and u kno that’s my homie, I’m just talkin about standards.”
OBJ wasn’t the only NFL player with that opinion, either. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell agreed with him. “lol hilarious, I feel the same exact way.” he wrote on Twitter. “Me & AB [Antonio Brown] got fined for a handshake…A HANDSHAKE!”
OBJ and Bell aren’t wrong here. It is kind of crazy that the NFL has now let it be known that they will apparently fine players for celebrations that involve props—unless those celebrations are for a good cause. So how long will it be before someone like OBJ figures out a way to exploit that and work a good cause into a celebration just to make the rules surrounding celebrations messier than they already are?
There’s only one good solution here: The NFL needs to figure out a way to stop penalizing players for every little celebration that they do. It’ll help them avoid situations like this that seem hypocritical and silly and end up portraying the NFL in a negative light, even when they try to do the right thing.