Football Disqualification Penalty

Football Disqualification Penalty

A disqualification penalty in football is a penalty that results in a player being disqualified from a game. There are various penalties that can result in a disqualification, including throwing punches at another player, making contact with an official, taunting the other team, or publicly using language that is deeply offensive. These penalties are up to the discretion of the official. Some of these penalties lead to an immediate ejection from the game, while others have a warning predating the player being ejected from the game. There were a total of 5 disqualification penalties in the NFL in 2021.


A disqualification penalty in football is not just one penalty but rather a collection of penalties that can lead to a player being ejected from a game. The general category of these penalties is ones that violate the general rules of sportsmanship. This includes a wide variety of offenses.

One of the most significant reasons to be disqualified is when there is contact made with an official. If a player makes contact with an official in any way, especially in an aggressive way, that will lead to an immediate ejection for that player.

For example, in the first week of 2020, Lions player Jamie Collins was attempting to show an official how he had been hit when his head bumped into the chest of the referee. Though it may have been an accident, it resulted in Collins being immediately disqualified from the game.


PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFL
Disqualification15 Yards, Warning and/or Ejection15 Yards, disqualification from the game15 Yards, warning and/or ejection25 Yards, warning and/or ejection

Since disqualification is not one penalty, but rather a collection of different penalties, the result of the penalty is not always exactly the same. However, the general rule is a 15-yard penalty in the NFL, NCAA, and High School and a 25-yard penalty in the CFL.

A new rule change in the NCAA is that a player who is disqualified from the game by a flagrant foul or targeting is allowed to stay on the bench rather than be removed from the game and sent to the locker room. In the NFL, any contact with an official and throwing a punch is an immediate disqualification, but other penalties, such as taunting, can go with a warning, and a second offense leads to an ejection.

Penalty Signal

football penalty signal disqualification

The penalty signal for a disqualification is the official holding their thumb up and then swinging it over their shoulder. This signal represents the motion of throwing someone out; therefore it is appropriate for a disqualification. The penalty signal is usually preceded by another penalty signal, like unsportsmanlike conduct, which will lead to the disqualification of the player.


  • A player upset with a penalty flag called on them bumps into the official while arguing with them.
  • A player scores a touchdown and is flagged for taunting. Later in the game, they get into a pushing match with another player, causing a second penalty and an ejection.
  • A player gets into an argument with another player in pregame. Later during the game, they throw a punch at another player even though they do not connect.

Similar Penalties To Disqualification


What is a disqualification penalty in football?

In football, a disqualification penalty is any penalty that results in the disqualification of a player from the game. There are many violations that result in a disqualification penalty, including physically fighting with another player, making contact with an official, taunting the opposing team, or offensive language used in any instance. Any disqualification penalty results in the removal of the offending player and a loss of 15 yards for his team.

Why are players disqualified in football?

Players can be disqualified for a number of reasons in football, including engaging in a fight, making physical contact with an official, or using excessively profane language. Disqualification results in an immediate ejection from the game. Despite the competitiveness and physical nature of football, disqualifications are rare.

What happens when a player is ejected from an NFL game?

When a player is ejected from an NFL game, he is replaced by another player on his team’s bench. This substitution is similar to what occurs when a player is so injured that they are unable to play further. The only difference is that a disqualification penalty also comes with a loss of 15 yards for the offending player’s team. This process is also what happens for the NCAA and NFHS (high school football). CFL disqualifications are similar but result in a 25-yard loss.

What are the ejection rules in the NFL?

In the NFL, a player is automatically ejected from a game when they receive a second penalty for dangerous or abusive conduct. Such conduct includes throwing a punch or kick, or using words, gestures, or actions that are abusive, threatening, insulting, baiting, or taunting. If the penalty is deemed to be flagrant, the player may be ejected upon their first infraction.