The NFL Adopts Soccer’s ‘Yellow Card’ Rule For One Year Trial

In league meetings earlier this week, the NFL passed a rule on a provisional one-year trial where players would be ejected from the game if they received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during that game.

Fans and pundits balked at the rule for weeks, and even as it picked up traction, few thought owners would actually agree to it—especially with so many NFL players who are repeat offenders of the rule already, tying up a ton of guaranteed money.

For those unfamiliar with soccer rules, if a player receives one yellow card, it’s basically the equivalent to a written warning when you’re pulled over by a cop. If you’re pulled over again, you’re going to get a ticket.

Well, in soccer, if a player receives a yellow card, it’s a warning, with a secondary yellow card resulting in an ejection. Soccer also has a red card, which is an outright ejection, but these are rare, and I don’t see the NFL adopting that rule anytime soon—if ever.

NFL players have expressed concern over how officials will handle yellow card situations, and rightfully so. If this rule is explicitly applied to unsportsmanlike penalties, it shouldn’t be an issue with textbook tackling, but I can see where defenses might feel more threatened by the rule, as modern rules are shaped to protect offensive players, which, as a result, increases the score and brings higher ratings.

Several years ago, the NFL banned players from giving military salutes after Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt made it his signature finishing move, but the league quickly rescinded the rule after public outcry. Since then, the league hasn’t engaged in rules creation that singles out or zeroes in on one specific player.

However, this rule could change things for say, Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl MVP defender Von Miller, whose pelvic thrusting (which is glorious), has been the central focus of the Political Correct Police who have demanded NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell give a public reprimand to. For perspective, though, if the yellow card rule applied in the Super Bowl, Miller likely would have been ejected, and that would have been tragic for his Broncos.

While it’s in a trial run for the 2016 season, several pundits throughout the sports world have been mentioning obvious concerns.

An interesting one is whether officials will be trained to distinguish between a player engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct because he was being baited, and if the player taunting would in turn, be the recipient of the penalty, or vice versa.

Much like a few other new NFL rules that will be implemented into the 2016 season, I can see where this could give officials a considerable amount of time in the replay booth for confirmation, which could impact the flow of the game.

I imagine we’ll have to wait until we see yellow cards in action during the regular season to fully understand how they’ll work and to what extent they’ll be used. But for now, let’s hope the red card idea never actually becomes “a thing.”