In football, scoring a touchdown is a significant achievement. That is why oftentimes a player will celebrate a touchdown with a dance, or with some other kind of motion, when they score one. However, there is a limit to what a touchdown celebration, or any other kind of celebration, can be. An excessive celebration penalty is a penalty that is given when any player, or coach, celebrates in a manner that is inappropriate or excessive. The actual definition of this is often left up to the officials to decide, with some general guidelines. The rules for excessive celebration have often been controversial as well, with recent changes allowing NFL players to celebrate more.
An illegal celebration is one that is prolonged or excessive, by one player, a group of players, or a coach. That usually falls into one of the following categories:
Other celebrations that are not allowed include removing one's helmet in order to celebrate, or using props that are not the football or already on the player. The language in the official NFL rulebook is intentionally vague, especially after 2017, when the rulebook was relaxed to allow more self expression by players, allowing them to celebrate with fewer restrictions. However, if one of the conditions is violated that could be defined as excessive celebration, it is cause enough to throw a flag and penalize the team for an excessive celebration.
|Excessive Celebration||15 yards (on the PAT), possible fine, possible ejection and suspension||15 yards (on the PAT), possible ejection and suspension||15 yards (on the PAT), possible ejection and suspension||15 yards (on the PAT), possible fine possible ejection and suspension||15 yards (on the PAT), possible ejection and suspension|
The difficult thing about calling an excessive celebration penalty is that it is a dead ball foul, considering it occurs usually after a score, or at least after a play has ended. What this means is that the penalty will apply to the next play, usually a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty enforced on the point after play. This makes it harder to make a successful point after the kick.
Additionally, in the NFL and other paid football leagues, a player who commits an excessive celebration penalty will often be faced with a fine. If the celebration is very violent or obscene, a referee could potentially eject the offending player as well. This is only for very dramatic cases. In today's NFL, oftentimes celebrations aren't even penalized on the field, but more penalized after the fact when NFL reviewers rewatch the play and enact fines.
The penalty signal for excessive celebration is the same one as any other unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The signal is both arms out, in a cross type of motion, while calling the penalty. The penalty will be called by the head official, usually after the touchdown celebration has been called.