The NFL Players Who Forced The League To Crack Down On Over-The-Top Touchdown Celebrations

Eagles Touchdown Celebration

Getty Image

It’s hard to blame NFL players for celebrating after scoring a touchdown, but those victory laps can be a strangely divisive topic among people who watch (and watch over) the sport. While the league has done what it can to crack down on supposedly “excessive” celebrations, it hasn’t prevented some notable names from going all out every now and then.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest the vast majority of NFL fans would prefer to see players show off their creative side after scoring as opposed to the alternative. I’m all for guys hitting whatever dance is taking TikTok by storm, choreographing a routine with their teammates, or using the football as a prop, but there are plenty of pearl-clutchers who feel differently.

Former Chiefs wide receiver Elmo Wright is widely credited with being the first NFL player to deploy a touchdown dance, and plenty of people followed in his footsteps after he showed off his moves during a game against Houston in 1973.

That includes the members of the “Fun Bunch” (the name given to a crew of Washington WRs in 1he 1980s), who were responsible for a new rule the NFL rolled out in 1984 that banned the “prolonged, excessive, or premeditated celebrations” they were known for.

In 2006, owners overwhelmingly approved a new measure to discourage celebrations under the guise of a crackdown on taunting that subjected players and teams to a 15-yard penalty. Most of those regulations were mercifully rescinded in 2017, but you can largely trace the initial set of guidelines back to a few guys who riled up the higher-ups at the start of the new millennium.

The NFL players who caused the league to change its rules regarding touchdown celebrations

Touchdown Celebration

Getty Image

While the NFL has become a bit more lenient in recent years, I’d argue The Golden Age of Touchdown Celebrations has come and gone. Sure, players are still allowed to have a little bit of fun (although they apparently need to be conscious of the number of hip thrusts they deploy), but it’s going to be hard to top a few iconic trailblazers, including…

Randy Moss

On January 9th, 2005, the Minnesota Vikings were playing the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round in the playoffs.

After catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from Dante Culpepper early in the fourth quarter to give the Vikings a 30-17 lead, Moss decided to pretend to moon the crowd at Lambeau Field much to the chagrin of Joe Buck.

I get that it’s not a great look, but this is a massive moment in a huge game. It would be one thing if Moss had actually pulled down his pants, but I don’t think mimicking the move was worthy of the “Disgusting Act” label Buck bestowed upon it.

It was admittedly childish, but it was also pretty funny and probably worth the $10,000 fine the NFL handed out.

Terrell Owens

On October 14th, 2002, the San Francisco 49ers squared off against the Seattle Seahawks in a Monday Night Football showdown.

Terrell Owens knew there were going to be millions of people watching the game, and he came up with a plan to try to entertain them—and with a little less than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, he got the chance to do exactly that.

On the play in question, Owens snagged a long pass from Jeff Garcia and ran into the end zone for the 37-yard score that gave the 49ers a 26-21 lead. The wide receiver was no stranger to touchdown celebrations, but he really outdid himself by pulling a Sharpie out of his sock, signing the football, and handing it to his financial advisor in the front row


Owens was never fined for the incident, which was a textbook example of a “Well, There’s Technically No Rule Against That” situation that led to the league making sure there was, in fact, a rule against props like those a few years later (the Sharpie is used eventually sold for more than $3,600 at auction in 2007).

Joe Horn

On December 14th, 2003, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn treated the world to what is (at least in my opinion) the touchdown celebration all other touchdown celebrations should be measured against.

The Saints were up by three points against the Giants midway through the second quarter when Horn extended the lead to 16-7 by hauling in a 12-yard pass from Aaron Brooks.

After securing the football, he made a beeline for the goalpost before lifting the pad to grab the flip phone that was stashed underneath and used it to “make a call” after retrieving it.

This is my favorite TD celebration of all time because of the preparation involved. Yes, Owens had to go out of his way to stash a Sharpie in his sock, but Horn took the time and effort to covertly plant a phone in the end zone (it’s safe to assume he actually hid them under both goalposts) before the game.

Horn was ultimately fined $30,000 for his antics, which he later said was tied to a promise he made to his kids (they weren’t allowed to attend the night game because they had to get up for school the next morning, but he’d pledged to “call” them when he got the chance).

Shame on the No Fun League for depriving us of more celebrations like these.