Soccer celebrations-How much is too much?

November 7, 2011

Political Theory


Just a week ago two Iranian soccer players were banned from ever playing or entering into an Iranian soccer stadium. The reasoning was because their actions were “considered to be an “immoral” act on the field.” Essentially what happened is that one of the players on their team scored, so the players went to go and celebrate the goal together. One player, Mohammed Nosrati, grabbed the butt of his teammate, Sheis Rezaei. It was quite clear that Rezaei was not involved and was shocked as to what happened during the act. Unfortunately though he was also brought down with the allegations. More so than just being banned from stadiums, the two were fined forty thousand dollars each and potentially will receive seventy-four lashes to their bodies.
My concern with this is that the punishment seems quite extreme. I understand that Iran is notorious for being very strict but is this punishment too over the edge for two soccer players who were foolishly celebrating a goal? There are many circumstances where punishments are allowed or necessary, but this was not an immoral act. Sure it was not the best thing to do on television but as soccer players they are supposed to celebrate and enjoy themselves. I understand that a fine would be a plausible punishment but to ban them from ever playing again allows no opportunity for them to repaint their own images. This is the legacy they are left with and it is unchangeable.
Another incident similar to this one was that of the Perry Hall high school boy’s soccer team. Their principle cancelled their next playoff game because they did the Bernie at the end of a game to celebrate a victory. The act was considered to be “showing off,” so they were punished.
These two events bring me to the question: how much punishment is too much? At what point is freedom of speech/expression cut off? I know that Mill would argue that freedom of speech is allowed and should not be shut down, but in these circumstances was it really that wrong to celebrate in a way because they were happy?
It is not valid to penalize all of these soccer players if their teams are doing well and they are just a central point in a celebration. Sports have always been a way of expressing yourself and celebrating, but over the years the rules have been stricter so that taunting is not as big of a factor. Competition is a driving force that makes people excel and attempt to be the best they can be, and sometimes showing off your skill is not necessarily a bad thing. People can tone down their celebrations in order to have better sportsmanlike conduct but the punishments for not acting with respect to the opponents should not result in no longer being able to compete. If people were not able to celebrate or express their feelings towards successes in life, then people would be a lot duller and the excitement out of the games would dramatically plummet. A big part of the competition is the taunting and the rowdiness that the players are able to have, which in effect escalate to the fans.
Do you think the punishments are valid or too extreme? At what point does someone cross the line of freedom of expression? Lastly, do you think that Mill would support the player’s actions and believe that they should not be held back, or would he oppose what they did?

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10 Comments on “Soccer celebrations-How much is too much?”

  1. joethahn Says:

    After reading your blog I was shocked to hear that the two Iranian soccer players were banned from ever entering an Iranian stadium after such a harmless act. I was even more shocked to read that they were charged forty thousand dollars and a possible seventy four lashes to the body. How do they even decide that seventy four lashes is a good punishment? As an athlete myself, I do not see anything wrong with grabbing another players butt, as in many sports players will hit each others butt after a good shot or play. I guess it goes to show a large difference in culture. I’m guessing this was seen as an “immoral act” because the player’s action was unsportsmanlike conduct but more because it was seen as a homosexual act. I just did a little research and Iran is a country that is highly homophobic and does not tolerate homosexual activity. I also read an article that stated that three men were hanged for homosexual activity. If this were to occur in the U.S. the two players would most likely not have gotten into trouble and at worst they would have had to pay a fine. If anything it angers me to see people get such severe punishment for a harmless act, but what angers me more is the government’s intolerance of gays and lesbians. I also feel very fortunate to be living in a country where freedom of expression is a guarantee.

  2. ngamin1614 Says:

    The celebrations certainly were not extreme at all. Who cares how the players celebrate? They should be able to do what they want. For the record, I am also against the whole penalizing football celebrations too, although the punishment for that is 15 yards instead of 40,000 dollars and 74 lashes to the back. A celebration is an expression of happiness. The player just simply wanted to celebrate with his teammate, again, why should it matter how he celebrates?

    So, yeah, I do think the punishment is far too severe. The person who posted above me said that Iran is against homosexuals, which explains a lot of the punishment. There is a freedom of expression issue here obviously. A player can and should be able to express himself in any way he chooses. So, Mill would definitely be against this. There is no harm going on here and yet freedom of expression is still being punished. It’s quite ridiculous.

    I am quite against this punishment and this hatred of homosexuals in Iran. It’s not right. But the thing is unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. Yes, we here in America think that what is going on in Iran is wrong. We’re all for freedom of expression and we are the land of the free. But, Iran is different than us. And even though we may get angry hearing about these things, we unfortunately can’t just charge in and change their government.

  3. sydstacker Says:

    Wow. This post makes me upset at the harsh punishment these players are facing for simply celebrating their accomplishments. I 100% agree with you as well as joethahn. It seems implausible that these players are being punished for simply celebrating, rather than being involved in an assumed “homosexual” act. This makes me even more upset. Just because one player grabbed the others butt in an act of celebration and happiness and to commend his fellow teammate for his contributions, doesn’t necessarily imply that either are gay. And even if they WERE gay, and this were a “sexual” act expressing homosexuality, SO WHAT? I fully support gays and I think the discrimination they face on a daily basis is absolutely cruel and unjust. As far as punishment goes, okay, it’s typical for a Kobe Bryant or a Calvin Johnson to be fined for taunting or rowdiness, but 74 lashes to the body? As in whipping? As in physical harm? I think that’s way too extreme and ridiculous. Yes, Iran is known as being strict, but seriously? Just for celebrating during the game? And I like the fact that you point out that banning them from playing in any Iranian stadium denies them a chance to reestablish their images. I feel extremely sorry for them. Especially for Sheis Rezaei who didn’t tell the guy to grab his butt, and could have done nothing to stop it. I feel sorry that he faces such penalties too just because he scored. This amount of punishment is completely immoral and UNNECESSARY. It annoys me that players are fined as much as they are for taunting in the U.S. As mentioned, taunting is part of the game. It’s supposed to make the opposing team mad. So what? I feel that taunting and celebrating are also two different concepts. In this instance, the players weren’t “taunting” the other team, they were merely celebrating. I wish these players could refute their punishment and someday be allowed to play in Iran again. Thanks for sharing.

  4. maxmoray Says:

    Very interesting post, I too must agree with the previous comments stating that the two soccer players should not have been banned from the arena. Sports, in particular soccer, is a very emotional game. Due to this I feel as though players should be given the right to celebrate freely as long as they don’t cause serious harm to anyone. Too many times in sports today do we see referees cross their restriction and penalize these athletes even though they really shouldn’t. One specific example that comes to mind is that of the NFL.
    Players such as Chad Johnson and Terell OWens continuously got fined for post touchdown celebrations, even without attack anyone on the opposing league. Sports is a business, and one that is supposed to supply entertainment for it’s fans. No other moment in football makes a fan go crazier then a funny dance after a big touchdown. As long as the athlete isn’t attacking an official or other player, I think they should not get in trouble. Being banned from the arena is something way beyond a reasonable penalty, and should be reviewed by the head Commissioner in this specific soccer league.

  5. benhenri Says:

    I also agree that the punishment these two Iranian soccer players suffered was too extreme. I am a soccer player as well and strongly advocate sportsmanship like conduct. For me, because the player was not showing off, thereby, teasing the other team to make them feel inferior, but was simply grabbing his teammate’s butt to celebrate his team’s own victory, he should not have been punished for he had the right to express himself here. If the Iranian player had been showing off, however, with an intent to mentally or emotionally undermine, or hurt, the other team, I don’t think I would consider the player’s permissible as a freedom to express himself. Furthermore, in this case, I think it was extremely unfair that both the Iranian player whose butt was grabbed should have been punished. It was not his fault at all that his butt was grabbed. He didn’t know it was coming. Also, unfortunately, now the whole team will be punished. The team obviously lost two very good players for they were both playing on the field rather than sitting on the bench at that time. And, now, that these two players were banned, they must play without them. They probably have a less chance of winning now since, in addition to replacing two starting players, they probably must change a few their attitudes, their plays, and a large part of the structure of their team as well.
    And, like other bloggers have commented before, I believe Mill would agree with me for he considers any act a legitimate freedom of expression, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.
    I also want to bring up the point that maxmoray made concerning the topic of entertainment, though it is somewhat irrelevant. I recently watched a video in my Communications class about the WWE network. Despite curses that degraded homosexuals and remarks that attempted to ease the true horrific extent of rape and physical assault of women of men, by labeling the show as simply “entertaining,” the network was seen as permissible and inoffensive. However, the network’s biases concerning homosexuality, sexual assault, and physical violence was, in actuality, causing viewers to partake in actual physical violence and rudeness in the real world. So, yes, I agree with maxmoray when he says that, when the game is simply “entertaining” fans, any act is permissible. unless it harms others. When this sort of “entertainment” in soccer involves players being rude to or physically violent (like grabbing, pushing, etc.) with other players, this urges fans to be rude or, more significantly, physically violent in the real world as well. And, this lack of sportsmanship, like I said before, should be punished and should not be a permissible freedom of expression.

  6. aclieb Says:

    This is absurd, but not surprising. Iranian President, Ahmadinejad, denies that there are any Iranian homosexuals. So for this ban, fine, and physical punish towards these athletes for an action that all athletes do all over the world, both male and female does not surprise me. When that soccer player butt slapped his teammate, it threatened Ahmadinejad’s claims and ideals. So the only logical thing to do was impose the punishments that they received. Honestly, there’s not much that can be said about this in my opinion. This guy demonstrates a backwards authority on his nation and it shows when situations like this arise. Obviously it is ridiculous that these soccer players are being punished so severely.
    As far as the high school soccer player scenario, that surprises me. I’ve always been taught that if you don’t want your opponent to rub it in, or celebrate or what have you, beat him. I don’t know where the “bernie” originated from, but as far as I know it’s a dance and nothing more. It is no sign of disrespect or anything like that. The fact that this soccer team is out of the playoffs because of that is silly.
    I just think people, and I mean everyone, are too sensitive these days. Not every act has some underlying meaning that is rude or offensive. People just do things sometimes to have fun and it’s not meant to show off or anything. Everyone just needs to chill out and realize what they’re getting so upset about and understand how foolish that is.

  7. bonannianthony Says:

    This is an interesting post. Anyone who has ever played sports knows sometimes emotions get the better of them. However, this is an absurd penalty for just a celebration. Fining them would be an applicable penalty, but the ban for life and the possible lashing is way over the top. In what seems like a weekly occurrence someone in the NFL is fined for “excessive celebration.” Fining the players is fine because they make enough money to pay those fines thousands of times over, but if Chad Ochocinco went crazy in the endzone he would not receive a lifetime ban, he would just be fined and he would move on.

    Playing sports is something nearly all kids do, and when they score or make a big play they get excited. Some of the most fun I have ever had in my life is celebrating overtime goals in hockey or winning a big tournament. During those times I can say I don’t remember exactly what I did. People get excited and do things out of emotion, some may be wrong, but are they wrong enough for 74 lashings? Probably not.

  8. roshray Says:

    I agree with the commenters above that think that the punishment is ridiculous and the act is not only common in sports culture, but perfectly harmless. While this is definitely a more severe issue, I can see parallel’s with a rule of the NBA’s, which gives players technical fouls for hanging onto the rim after dunking, which would be considered to be excessive and taunting. However, it is clear that the measures are quite different. While the NBA’s discourages the same action again as the players would not want to get their team in foul trouble and potentially get fined (as well as showing other players not to do it), the Iranian soccer situation seems inherently unfair and pointless. Other players in the league would definitely be discouraged from doing anything like this, but instead of making it a small deal, it would be seen as a fear-intilling situation. If something so small destroyed the careers of these soccer players, what’s to say if they had actually gotten caught doing something like renouncing their religion or something that would truly go against Irani values. When punishments are so unfair and severe, the government is not ruling by the respect of the people but by the fear of them.

  9. rmwells3 Says:

    As a soccer player, I think celebrations are one of the lost art of the game. A person should be allowed to reward himself after working his butt off for 90 minutes of high pace and strenuous physical work. However, I understand that some acts are just wrong, but when one celebrates it’s truly the feeling of ecstasy and any individual should be allowed to express that feeling however they feel appropriate.

    In this instance, the act was deemed inappropriate because it came off very gay in a religion where gays are not religiously accepted. However, in my truest belief, the whole incident was an accident and i think the replay clearly demonstrates that. The first man didn’t know where his hands were and the second guy was in utter shock by what happened. Logic and reason should have been applied when reviewing the film before implementing the punishment. However, since that wasn’t the case, I’ll answer the broader question with respect to what punishment is too far.

    Punishment only goes too far when it cannot be justified. In this instance, the punishment cannot be justified because it is too extreme. These men made a unconscious mistake while in the midst of celebrating. This wasn’t planned and thus, there is no reasoning for such a punishment. There futures, legacies, lives and soccer careers have become forever tarnished. The course of action was inappropriate.

  10. rmwells3 Says:

    Mill clearly would back these players and agree that the punishment was far too extreme.

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