Taunting in football would fall under the unsportsmanlike conduct section of penalties and is called when one player performs an act that will provoke the other team in an unnecessary fashion. This penalty was first introduced into the NFL in the 1990s and its original purpose was to limit the amount of celebrations players were doing on the field as the league saw these celebrations as a distraction away from the game. The penalty will always result in a 15 yard penalty and the automatic first down.
Taunting penalties are usually a subjective call made by the officials as what constitutes taunting can really be left up to interpretation. In most cases fans are against taunting calls unless they are in favor of their team, as sometimes the calls can be extremely nit-picky. Taunting is when a player commits flagrant acts or remarks to, mock, bait, or embarrass an opponent." This includes acts such as spiking a football near an opponent after a touchdown, shoving the ball at an opponent, or pointing at an opponent.
The call is usually made on touchdown celebrations either before scoring or after scoring a player openly taunts an opponent. In some cases depending on when the taunting penalty is committed during the play, these touchdowns can be called back and in some cases players can be fined off the field for the taunting violations.
However player demonstrations, which include endzone celebrations are not fouls under the NFL playing rules and will not result in a penalty granted that they do not violate any other rules. If the celebration violates one of these standards, taunting will be called or if the celebration is excessive it will result in a different penalty of excessive celebration for delaying the game.
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At all levels of football played, the penalty for a taunting will always result in a 15 yard penalty against the team that committed the penalty and an automatic first down.
To make the signal for the taunting the referee will make the unsportsmanlike conduct signal, by extending both arms outward and to the side.