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Football is a tough, no-holds-barred sport. Nevertheless, good sportsmanship is encouraged at all levels of play. A few breaches of accepted football etiquette include the risk of injury, but for the most part football's rules of etiquette involve the degree of respect that players and coaches owe to their opponents.
A fine line often exists between legal and illegal football hits, including hits that occur just after a whistle. While some late hits may be extensions of normal play, others are clearly deliberate cheap shots. For example, in 2011 Michigan State defensive end William Gholston punched a Michigan lineman after a play ended. Gholston received a 15-yard personal foul penalty and was suspended for one game by the Big Ten conference. Likewise, Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown was suspended for one game by the school in 2011 for kneeing a Northwestern lineman in the groin.
End Zone Celebrations
At one time, players who scored touchdowns did little more than drop the ball and receive congratulations from teammates. In recent decades, end zone celebrations have evolved from spiking the ball, to dancing to pre-planned skits. As a result, various organizations have adopted rules to tone down excessive celebrations. NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was fined several times for his end zone celebrations, crossed the etiquette line most memorably in 2000. In a game played at Dallas, Owens ran to midfield after scoring and celebrated on the Cowboys' logo. He repeated the act after scoring again, then was tackled by Dallas safety George Teague. Teague was ejected from the game, while Owens was suspended for one game by his team.
Taunting an opponent after scoring or making a big play is another area in which football officials have tried to crack down. Illegal taunting may be verbal, or it may involve a gesture, such as a player slashing his hand across his throat. In a memorable taunting incident in 2011, Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson hauled in a long reception then went out of bounds in front of the New York Giants' bench. Jackson flipped the ball at a Giants coach, then brushed himself off. He was called for a personal foul that erased a 50-yard gain.
Football games traditionally end with the head coaches meeting at midfield and shaking hands. At some levels of the game both teams line up and shake hands following the contest. Occasionally, one of the handshake participants may offer a less-than-polite handshake. In 2011, victorious San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh excitedly shook Detroit coach Jim Schwartz's hand and slapped him on the back. Schwartz took exception and chased Harbaugh down the field. Schwartz later acknowledged that Harbaugh had a right to be excited, but added, вЂњthere's a protocol that goes with this league.вЂќ Harbaugh responded that he was вЂњreally revved upвЂ¦ just shook his hand too hard.вЂќ Neither coach was fined for the incident.