We’ve all seen the Jalen Ramsey vs. A.J. Green fight. Obviously Green, who threw punches and choke slammed Ramsey from behind, should have been ejected. But why was Ramsey? Why wasn’t he called for a simple unsportsmanlike penalty for 15 yards?
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union interviewed referee Brad Allen after the game and Allen explained his reasoning which is... a bit fishy:
Question: Why was Jalen Ramsey ejected from the game as a result of the altercation with A.J. Green?
Allen: “No. 20 of Jacksonville [Ramsey] was ejected for a flagrant personal foul, which started the altercation which resulted in a punch from No. 18 of Cincinnati [Green]. They were both disqualified.”
Question: Was Ramsey shoving Green to the ground result in an automatic ejection for Ramsey?
Allen: “I don’t want to use the term ‘automatic’ because it would have been a [penalty] on its own but we also had a fight. We ended up with a fight by Cincinnati but we had the instigator in Jacksonville. Therefore, they were both disqualified.”
Question: Ramsey and Green were seen yapping throughout the first half. Did any members of your crew warn them?
Allen: “Yes, absolutely.”
Question: At what point did a member of your crew say something to Green and Ramsey in the first half?
Allen: “Well, first of all, I can’t tell you what we have on our game cards because they’re back in the [officials’ locker] room. But throughout the game, we had warnings to both sidelines and to individual players, at which time we recorded. I can’t tell you the specifics of what time.”
Question: The fact they had been warned, did that make the decision to eject them easier?
Allen: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
Question: During the Green-Ramsey fight, a lot of other players from both teams were involved … [why weren’t they penalized or ejected]?
Allen (started answering before question was completed): “We try to get the instigators of a situation like that. That’s who we believe we got.”
Question: To recap, 18 threw a punch, which was the reason for his ejection?
Allen: “That was No. 18 of Cincinnati. He was fighting.”
Question: And Ramsey didn’t need to throw a punch to get ejected?
Allen: “That’s correct. You don’t have to throw a punch in order to be disqualified.”
Rule 12, Section 4 of the 2017 NFL Rule Book is the best outline for unsportsmanlike penalties and ejections and here’s what it says:
SECTION 4 AUTOMATIC DISQUALIFICATION
ARTICLE 1. MULTIPLE FOULS.
In addition to any penalty referenced elsewhere in the Official Playing Rules, a player will be automatically disqualified if that player is penalized twice in the same game for committing one of the unsportsmanlike conduct fouls listed below, or a combination of the fouls listed below:
(a) Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made.
(b) Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.
(c) Using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.
The player will be automatically disqualified regardless of whether the penalty is accepted or declined by the opponent. The fouls do not have to be judged by the official to be flagrant for the automatic disqualification to occur, and any foul that occurs during the pregame warm-up period will carry over into the game. Nothing in this section supersedes the Game Official’s discretion to judge a foul to be flagrant and disqualify the player based on one occurrence.
We saw Yannick Ngakoue get hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty early in the game based on Section C when he was taunting a Bengals player on the ground.
Allen is right — a player doesn’t technically have to throw a punch to be thrown out of the game. The letter of the law says that officials have “discretion to judge a foul to be flagrant and disqualify the player based on one occurrence”. But is that really the spirit of the law? Does Ramsey’s shove fall under this clause?
I don’t think it does and I think the referees got a little trigger-happy with the Ramsey ejection. If you wanted to penalize 15 yards, I don’t think any Jaguars fans would have had a problem with it or argument against it. But an ejection seemed a bit much.
What do you think?