From the department of catching up with the news of two weeks ago, we offer the following item on excessive celebration penalties in the NFL.
Exactly what rule did Bills receiver Stevie Johnson violate when he flashed his Happy New Year message on his undershirt in New England? We asked the NFL office, and got this response: He violated Rule 5, Section 4, Article 8 of the 2011 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League, which states that players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration.
What exactly is the penalty for that? Normally a player gets fined. For instance, Titans receiver Kenny Britt was fined $5,000 in 2010 for wearing a towel tucked into his pants that had the message "#10 VY" in support of injured quarterback Vince Young. There are lots of other examples.
The Bills' Johnson received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in New England. Reports an NFL spokesman: He was flagged on the field for unsportsmanlike conduct. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 states that there shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.
So by that standard, Johnson should have been penalized when he flashed a message in Cincinnati in 2010.
(UPDATE) I agree with the commenter below. Was it really unsportsmanlike? No. The NFL probably would say that once you start letting players display messages, every other TD celebration might include something like that. Of course, that's the reason a fine is in place.