American Football Database

Unsportsmanlike conduct (also called unsporting behaviour or ungentlemanly conduct) is a foul or offense in many sports that violates the sport's generally accepted rules of sportsmanship and/or participant conduct. Examples include verbal abuse or taunting of an opponent, an excessive celebration following a scoring play, or feigning injury. The official rules of many sports include a catch-all provision whereby participants or an entire team may be penalized or otherwise sanctioned for unsportsmanlike conduct.


In American football, unsportsmanlike conduct results in a 15-yard penalty, assessed after the completion of a play.[1] When it occurs after a scoring play, the 15 yards are assessed on the kickoff. Situations that can incur such a penalty include excessive celebrations after plays, often involving props or multiple players or engaging in taunting against an opponent. Referees can also call unsportsmanlike conduct if a player purposely removes his helmet anywhere in the field of play during or in between plays, or if a substitute leaves the team bench during a fight. Unsportsmanlike conduct can also lead to players being ejected from the game. The referee signals unsportsmanlike conduct by holding his arms outstretched with palms facing downward. Coaches can also be hit with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for taunting or arguing with officials (although the latter instance is seldom enforced), one of the few times a coach's actions can be penalized outside of the rare palpably unfair act penalty.[2]

In association football, unsporting behaviour is punishable by a yellow card under law 12 of the laws of the game, the accumulation of which can lead to suspension of the offending player for a number of subsequent matches, the exact number of cards and matches varying by jurisdiction.[3] Popular examples include extravagant celebration (such as covering one's head with one's jersey or removing it over the head) and simulating actions intended to deceive the referee, also known as diving.

In basketball, such misconduct is penalized by a technical foul as opposed to a personal foul. The technical foul is akin to a caution in that two such fouls warrant an expulsion, although egregious conduct will be immediately assessed two consecutive technical fouls.

Unsportsmanlike conduct also includes attempts by players of match fixing, which has seen teams deliberately lose (a thrown game) or achieve draws or select scores, in order to receive a more favorable knockout bracket or a higher draft pick.

In tennis, such conduct is categorized as a "code violation". Examples include racket abuse (intentionally throwing a racket or using it to strike an object other than the ball), ball abuse (intentionally hitting or throwing the ball into the stands outside of normal play), or intentionally shouting during a point in order to distract an opponent. Penalties vary based on the organizers of the match and/or tournament and usually start with a verbal warning for a first violation, and forfeiture of a point, game, or a match for additional violations.

In cricket, such behavior is considered to be violating the "spirit of the game". The preamble to the "Laws of Cricket"[4] state certain actions which may violate the spirit of cricket. A more detailed list (along with appropriate sanctions) is given in the ICC Player's Code of Conduct.

In ice hockey, unsportsmanlike conduct is defined in Rule 75 of National Hockey League Rule Book.[5]

See also

  • Bodyline
  • Cheating
  • Misconduct (association football)
  • Gamesmanship