Football fans and salsa dancers alike lamented Monday when news broke that the New York Giants released wide receiver Victor Cruz after seven seasons with the franchise.
Cruz’s position on the depth chart this season dropped due to low offensive production. His new positioning on the depth chart not only meant that he was no longer quarterback Eli Manning’s first or second receiving option, but also a burden on the team’s salary cap.
Despite his absence during the latter half of the 2014 season and entire 2015 season due to a torn patellar tendon and subsequent calf injury, Cruz remains a Giants fan favorite and will be missed by not only the organization but also the team’s fan base.
Cruz’s integral role in winning Super Bowl XLVI and his incredible personal story of a local player becoming an iconic member of the Giants offense despite being undrafted are just a few reasons why Cruz’s release is heartbreaking.
But what Giants fans will miss the most is his famed touchdown celebration: the salsa.
A tribute to both his grandmother and National Hispanic Heritage month, Cruz debuted his celebratory dance in 2011. The touchdown celebration went viral and quickly became intrinsically tied to Cruz’s identity.
When Cruz recovered from his injuries this season, his first salsa dance celebration was garnished by Giants wide receiver Odell
Beckham Jr. who dropped to one knee to mimic a paparazzi taking photos of his dancing. But the NFL was quick to end the spectacle: though it was eventually rescinded, both players were initially fined for the celebration as the league speculated it was choreographed.
Besides how inconsistent and ridiculous it is to arbitrarily decide to punish Cruz for a dance he has used for many seasons — not to mention the dance’s sentimental value — the league ran into other issues fining the receivers, which persisted with other players throughout the season.
How would the league prove that this celebration was previously choreographed? What evidence do they have that Beckham’s pantomimed photographs were practiced as opposed to a spontaneous moment of hilarious genius? The answer: none.
Perhaps that is why the fine was rightfully repealed.
The reoccurrence of excessive celebration penalties and fines frustrated several NFL teams this season. Fans and players alike were disappointed and confused when the league outlawed Jimmy Graham’s signature goal post “dunk” in 2014. The celebration was a clever personal expression, as Graham’s basketball background is crucial to his identity as a tight end.
Since then, these rules have been tightened significantly and become more arbitrary regarding an “excessive celebration” and fine-worthy offenses related to showmanship.
Realistically, no number of articles attempting to explain the rules could adequately decipher or predict the practical application of the NFL’s policy — a problem the NFL has with a number of its rules, including completed passes and pass interference calls.
This offseason, the NFL should either iron out the excessive celebration policy or loosen these strict rules. By deregulating touchdown celebrations, the NFL has a prime opportunity to show fans that football should be fun, and that we should in fact embrace these celebrations that allow fans to see their favorite players in a unique, lighthearted way.
If we never see Victor Cruz dance again, the NFL community will have suffered a devastating loss. And with the current celebratory rules, who knows when the next “legal” iconic end zone dance will be created.
For now, all we can do is appreciate the memes and the memories.