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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 9 disqualification penalties in the NFL in 2019.


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


Disqualification15 Yards, Warning and/or Ejection15 Yards, disqualification from the game15 Yards, warning and/or ejection25 Yards, warning and/or ejection15 Yards, warning and/or ejection

Since disqualification is not one penalty, rather a collection of different penalties, the result of the penalty is not always exactly the same. However, the general rule is a fifteen yard penalty in the NFL, NCAA, High School and AFL, and a twenty five yard penalty in the CFL. A new rule change for 2020 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