The Most Expensive NFL Victory Dances
In the National Football League, $30,000 will buy you a crotch grab, a poncho-and-sombrero performance, or two goal post dunks. That odd price list may be news to you, but it probably isn’t to Marshawn Lynch, who has paid the league more than $130,000 in fines this season. The NFL has charged players for “excessive celebrations” since the 1980s—anyone remember the “Ickey Shuffle”?—and tightened the rules around behavior it deems unsportsmanlike repeatedly in the intervening years, most recently in 2013.
Many of Lynch’s fees were penalties for not showing up at media events, hence his “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” response to most of the questions reporters asked him at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. Another chunk of that money, though, was paid for two post-touchdown groin grips, making the Seattle Seahawks running back a particularly high roller in the NFL celebration market.
Lynch isn’t the only penalized celebrator. Below are some of the biggest checks athletes have made out to the NFL for their post-touchdown exuberance, based on a review of media reports of the penalties.
$30,000: Chad Johnson, wearing a poncho and sombrero, 2009
Johnson—who changed his last name to Ochocinco in 2008 and then back to Johnson four years later—completed a typically superhuman catch for the Cincinnatti Bengals in a game against the Detroit Lions during the 2009 season. He then executed a seamless costume change, donning a dark gray poncho and a sombrero on the sidelines. The league was not amused.
Over the course of his NFL career, Johnson treated fans to such delights as mock-performing CPR on a football, using a pylon as a golf club, and pretending to propose to a cheerleader. He was charged for his unadulterated happiness so often that he once, after scoring a touchdown, held up a sign that read: “Dear NFL: Please don’t fine me again!!!!!”
$30,000: Jimmy Graham, goal post dunks, 2014
In what may turn out to be the largest single-celebration fine of the 2014-15 season, the NFL stuck New Orleans Saints tight end Graham with a $30,000 fee for dunking the football through the goal posts, twice, during a preseason game in August. In an impressive display of practical logic, the league’s reasoning for prohibiting this act is concern that a player might actually move the posts if he hits the structure hard enough.
$20,000: Marshawn Lynch, subtle genital gesture, 2015
The second of the two obscene celebrations that earned Lynch a fine this season, executed during the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers in late January, was barely perceptible compared with the first (see below) but ended up costing him more.
$11,050: Marshawn Lynch, overt groin-grabbing, 2014
The first time Lynch was penalized for crotch-related gaiety this season came in Week 16, against the Arizona Cardinals, when the running back pulled off a spin move and an obscene gesture at the same time. The Cirque du Soleil of it all was too much for the NFL.
$11,025: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Captain Morgan pose, 2014
After catching a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons this year, rookie Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Seferian-Jenkins placed the ball under one foot and assumed the Captain Morgan stance. He then posted a picture of this entirely unoriginal choice of celebration on Instagram. The league fined him, but the 15-yard penalty that came with the display probably hurt more: The Falcons used the field position to score a touchdown that helped seal the deal in a victory over Tampa Bay.
$10,000: Wes Welker, snow angel; Antoine Winfield, pretending the goal post is a fire pole, 2008
In the midst of a 47-7 rout of the Cardinals in 2008, then-New England Patriots wide receiver Welker fell to the ground after catching a touchdown pass and made his mark on the snow.
The same year, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Winfield was docked the same amount for sliding down the goal post as if it were a fire pole after returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown, in a game against New Orleans.
$7,875: Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, hip thrusts; Dez Bryant, throat slash, 2013; Justin Houston, short-lived collective joy, 2012
Stills and Moore win the award for best-earned fine with their re-enactment of a sketch from the Comedy Central show Key & Peele. In the skit, Keegan-Michael Key plays a football player who gets flagged for hip-thrusting three times, rather than just two—the joke being that the league’s punishment system is arbitrary. In a December 2013 game vs. Tampa Bay, the Saints’ Moore caught a 44-yard touchdown pass, dropped the ball, and thrusted three times while Stills did his best impression of a vigilant referee. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was penalized for a throat-slashing motion after scoring against the St. Louis Rams the same year.
In the most overt celebration fail, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston recovered what was initially ruled a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich and scored a touchdown. He led his teammates in an elaborate dance in a circle formation. The referees rewarded the players with a 15-yard penalty, which remained in effect even after the fumble ruling was reversed and the Steelers got the ball back.