Controversial NBA and NFL rule changes cause mixed feelings throughout sports

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Cody Feldman, Contributing Writer

A common problem in sports is maintaining unbiased and near-perfect officiating.  A lack of perfection and consistency causes fans and players to blame the referees for their team losing.  This finger pointing  could potentially increase with rule changes.   At the beginning of both the 2021-2022 football and basketball seasons, there were rule changes that have sparked a lot of controversy among the NBA and NFL communities.

The NBA rule change tried to limit the amount of fouls drawn while shooting.  The league said they were trying to cut down on “abnormal” moves to try to draw an and-one.  Many believe this change was specifically targeted at players such as Trae Young and Stephen Curry, who often use their body to draw contact.  By making this rule, players with the ball in their hand would not be rewarded for seeking contact.

“The rule change has been good for the league, and makes the game more fair and fun to watch,” said freshman Zach Tessler.  

This has been the consensus throughout fans on the Internet, who no longer have to watch double clutches by point guards to draw bogus fouls and get free points.   

Several NBA players have voiced their frustration, however, with this change.  One of these players is Trailblazers star Damian Lillard.  Lillard is a six-time all-star, and he has consistently been a top five point guard in the league since he entered in 2012.  He recently spoke out against the rule change, saying, “The way the game is being officiated is unacceptable.”  He has taken a large hit in his stats this year.  In previous years, he has scored nearly 30 points per game.  However, this year he has only averaged 19.3 PPG, a 9.5 point drop off from his 28.8 in 2020.  A large part of his drop in points is his lack of getting to the free throw line.  Last year, he shot 7.2 free throws per game, and hit 6.7.  This year, he has only shot 3.2 free throws per game, making 2.7.  This new rule does not allow him to get to the stripe in the same capacity, and his points have taken a turn for the worse.  

Another player whose statistics have dropped is James Harden.  The Brooklyn Nets star is down to 18.3 PPG, from his 24.6 last year.

“I do not believe that Harden is worse than last year, but I think he is getting fouled and the referees are not calling it, causing him to have less points,” said Junior Jack McNaughton.  

Harden attempted 7.5 free throws per game last year, but is only shooting 4.6 this year.  The lack of shots from the line have seriously damaged the offensive efficiency of many players.  

The NFL also made a rule change.  Unlike the NBA, however, this rule has been met with outrage from fans.  In the Chicago Bears vs Pittsburgh Steelers game , the Bears were penalized for taunting.  The call sparked outrage on the Internet, and no player or fan was happy about it.  The play, during which Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh lightly brushed the referee on his way back to the bench, had a huge impact on the game.  After a crucial third down stop, Tony Corrente flagged the Bears for 15 yards, resulting in a first down for the Steelers.  In the Seattle Seahawks 33-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans, D.J. Reed got called for taunting after nodding his head.  The Seahawks likely would have won the game had the flag not been thrown.  Many fans believe the rule needs to be changed, as it has been “ruining” many games.  Instead of taunting, there should be a penalty for excessive celebration, but there have been too many calls this season for a simple celebration.  The NFL must fix this problem or they will be met with more backlash from fans.

The rulebooks for any sport need to adapt to changes in gameplay.  These changes will always be resisted by some, whether it be fans, players, or both.  The NFL and NBA are both finding their recent rule changes to be met with some backlash but will likely stand firm to try to modernize their leagues.