I have long been a critic of “excessive celebration” violations in the NFL and the growing crude and thuggish conduct of players. While some may view me a bit prudish, I find it incredibly offensive to see NFL players (or entertainers at games) swearing and making offensive gestures as millions of people, including children, are watching. The latest such transgression was committed by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin who decided to pretend that he was defecating on a ball in Super Bowl XLIX last Sunday. While the network quickly cut away, my family (including my kids) immediately saw and understood what Baldwin was doing. Even my nine-year-old thought it was “disgusting.” The Seahawks seem determined that they will, to use their motto, “leave no doubt” that they will not comply with minimal standards of conduct in the NFL.
The Seahawks have been in news continually over the conduct of its players who are viewed by many as out of control. There is no question about their talent, but the Seahawks have a serious problem with players who seem incapable of acting like adults, let alone professionals, during and after games. Last year, many of us were critical of the conduct of Richard Sherman who was fined for his conduct in an interview on the field. Sherman has continued his taunting and unprofessional commentary this season. However, it was his teammates who drew more fines. While I support Marshawn Lynch for his refusal to speak with the media, he should have been fined for his insistence on grabbing his crotch to celebrate plays. Instead of yielding to a reasonable request that he not make offensive gestures at the Superbowl, Lynch and his supporters made it a game to donate any fine amount to charity to encourage him to grab his crotch.
Now we have Baldwin who thinks it is funny to pretend that you are defecating on the ball. The former Stanford University wideout did the act after a touchdown pass in the third quarter in the Superbowl when he stood over the ball on the ground and made a motion that resembled pulling down his pants, before squatting over the ball. How clever.
The blame for this record clearly falls on Pete Carroll who seems unwilling to stand up to his elite players (a tendency that is only likely to worsen as he hunkers down after a moronic call that likely cost his team the Superbowl win on Sunday). What is clear is that Carroll will not impose any discipline on his team (which is also why the Seahawks are the most penalized team in the NFL with 416 in three seasons). This includes a fistfight at the end of the Super Bowl that gave Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin the distinction of being tossed out of a Super Bowl.
Baldwin should have been tossed out of the game. He obviously should be fined (if not suspended) but the question is whether the NFL needs to explore a team sanction for the Seahawks for their conduct during the season. There is a culture of juvenile and uncivil conduct on the team. I have complained for years that stadiums have been taken over the lowest common denominator of drunks and thugs. The same trend is occurring on the field with the players. I am not ready to give up on the notion of minimal requirements of civility and maturity from players. The NFL needs to be even more aggressive on player misconduct. Indeed, I think the loosening of the rule on celebration has fueled juvenile players like Baldwin. I truly love football and I love watching it with my kids. As I have said earlier, I no longer go to stadium so that they are not exposed to loud, swearing, drunken fans that now are so common. The players however are making it increasingly difficult to watch the games when you have to worry that a Seahawks wide receiver is going to pretend to be relieving himself on a ball.
I realize that there are people who think that his sophomoric conduct is really really funny. The question is whether the NFL will join a race to the bottom with the Seahawks or whether it will force owner Paul Allen, Carroll and others to reintroduce an element of professionalism on their team. It is a bad sign when a network under obscenity rules has to cut away rather than let people see the conduct of your players at the Superbowl.