via Telegraph UK
You will not see anything like Salomon Kalou’s ‘handcuff’ sign on Wednesday night for Chelsea, or Robbie Fowler pulling up his shirt to reveal a T-shirt supporting sacked dockers in 1997.
The NFL acted in the wake of the murder of Darrent Williams, a cornerback for the Denver Broncos, who was shot on Jan 1, 2007 during an altercation with gang members.
From the start of this season, there was a ban on players flashing gangland hand signals for on-field celebrations. A team of experts, or ‘spotters’, were hired to analyse video footage of games.
With 140 million expected to watch in the United States, the Super Bowl being broadcast to 220 countries around the world, and NBC selling 30-second advertising slots at $3 million each – the NFL will watch with great vigour.
The NFL are also aware that there is a danger of being seen as ‘institutionally racist’, fuelling a stereotype that black players are most likely to be criminals. But many believe that the influence of gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, MS-13 and Black Guerilla Family should not infiltrate the sport.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell means business in his third year in charge. Goodell hired experts in gang culture this season to determine which signs are emblematic. Referees were also asked to look out for “symbols, clothing, jewellery or other items that would signify an association with criminal gang enterprises”, according to NFL commissioners.
As well as the murder of Williams, there was also the murder of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor at his home. Several others have been beaten or robbed.
The NFL had noted the actions of the National Basketball Association, who fined Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics $25,000 for flashing “menacing gestures”, known to be used by the Bloods street gang, towards the Atlanta Hawks bench. After watching the gestures on tape the NBA acted swiftly. Pierce had a history of gang involvement and was stabbed 11 times in a nightclub in 2000.
Fear has forced many players to increase security around their homes and families. Guard dogs, alarms, cameras, motion sensors and firearms are the norm for many players.
The NFL have banned players from carrying handguns within sports vicinities, but some, like the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, have bodyguards with them travelling to and from work.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora said: “There are no problems with individual, spontaneous celebrations. Where we have issue is with choreographed celebrations which could have a negative impact on those watching the game.” Touchdown celebrations fall under the category of the NFL’s ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’, which bans group celebrations, sliding and the like.
“You can’t celebrate sacking the quarterback with a throat slashing sign, that’s outlawed,” said another NFL official. “They come down very heavily on that kind of thing. Anything with violent connotations is strictly dealt with.”