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Unsportsmanlike Conduct:Warranted or Not?

By Kendall Lanier, Staff Reporter

Antoine Winfield Jr. throws up the peace sign to Tyreek Hill at the 2021 Super Bowl. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

At what point do people take the competitive nature of sports and the culture of the game too far? Fans can argue that games like football and basketball have become softer with the competitiveness levels allowed. The unsportsmanlike conduct call has become a debatable topic in many instances regarding whether it was warranted or not. 

According to the American Football Database, unsportsmanlike conduct in football can be defined as a foul or offense that violates the sport’s generally accepted rules of sportsmanship, and/or participant conduct. It includes verbal abuse or taunting of an opponent, an excessive celebration following a scoring play, or feigning injury. 

A recent case of unsportsmanlike conduct on a big stage was at the 2021 Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Antoine Winfield Jr. taunted Tyreek Hill by throwing up Hill’s signature peace sign in his face during the last few minutes of the game with the Chiefs down 31-9.  

Many believe Winfield’s actions came from a place of revenge. 

In the weeks prior, Hill ran into the end zone and threw up his signature peace sign to Winfield. The consequence for Winfield’s actions in the Super Bowl was a 15-yard penalty. 

After becoming a Super Bowl Champion, Winfield says, “The taunting, it was something I just had to do, when we played them earlier, Hill went off on us…So it was only right that I gave him the peace sign right back to him at this moment. It felt amazing to be able to do that. I’m not even gonna lie.”

Many believe the unsportsmanlike conduct call was warranted, as it falls into the taunting category. 

Sportsmanship is typically a reflection of the player and their character. It says a lot about a player if they are repeatedly showing unsportsmanlike behavior. 

The league introduced the unsportsmanlike conduct rule so games could be carried on positively while setting a strong example for viewers and young athletes that are next to come. 

Unsportsmanlike conduct also extends beyond football but in other highly competitive sports, as well, which was evident in the Mike Tyson vs. Holyfield fight in 1997. Tyson bit the top of Holyfield’s ear during the heavyweight title fight. The referee stopped the fight immediately after that foul, and Tyson lost two points. The referee disqualified Tyson later in the third round after taking another small bite at Holyfield’s ear. 

Unsportsmanlike conduct is not just taunting, even if it is the most popular form of misconduct. It can also turn violent and lead to more serious consequences such as being fined, severely injured or even death. 

In 2016 the NFL strengthened their unsportsmanlike conduct rules to ensure the quality of the game. 

“We felt like we needed a rule to make sure the players are held accountable to how we expect them to conduct themselves”, says the NFL competition committee chairman. 

Unsportsmanlike conduct can sometimes become a part of the spirit and rivalry of all sports, but there’s a fine line that should not be crossed.

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