NFL relaxes celebration rules, can still penalize offensive gestures

League will relax penalties for excessive celebrations (1:02)

Michele Steele speaks on Roger Goodell addressing the media and saying the league has decided to ease itself from on-field celebrations, but will still penalize any celebration that is deemed offensive. (1:02)

The NFL has followed through on a promise to relax rules for player celebrations, responding to widespread criticism last season for penalties and fines that targeted harmless and spontaneous moments.

Moving forward, commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday, players will be allowed to use the ball as a prop. They'll be allowed to celebrate on the ground -- in instances such as snow angels -- and will also be able to celebrate in groups once again.

Those types of celebrations had been banned in recent years for reasons the NFL attributed to sportsmanship and an effort to avoid physical confrontations. But enforcement was widely seen as overbearing last season when players were penalized not only for snow angels but also, for example, when they pretended to shoot jump shots with the football.

"We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown," Goodell said in an announcement to fans. "And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements."

Some celebrations will still be prohibited. In the announcement, Goodell wrote: "Offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized."

As a result, "twerking" is still expected to be penalized, as Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was after a touchdown in September. So will violent acts such as throat-slashes and any imagery of weapons such as shooting a bow and arrow or a machine gun.

Brown took to Twitter on Tuesday night to share his reaction to the announcement.