NEW YORK (AP) — Keyshawn Johnson says he used the increasingly popular throat-slash gesture just to be original.
The NFL doesn't think so. It cracked down Tuesday, threatening fines and penalties for a taunt that the league said depicted "an unacceptable act of violence."
A letter was sent to all 31 teams to ban the gesture, in which a player draws his finger across his throat.
The gesture has been used for several years, in recent weeks by such stars as Johnson, Green Bay's Brett Favre, Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp, and Seattle's Ricky Watters.
"I like to come up with something new every week," said Johnson, who did it in full view of the "Monday Night Football" cameras last week. "I just try to be original."
He'll have to be more original and less objectionable from now on, unless he wants to incur a 15-yard penalty and a fine.
"We know of no interpretation of this act by which it would not be considered threatening or insulting," George Young, the league's vice president for football operations wrote in the letter. "In fact, it appears to depict an unacceptable act of violence."
The gesture has been around in sports for a while, but it has been occurring with increasing frequency this season in the NFL.
After leading a game-winning drive earlier this season in Cleveland, Cincinnati rookie quarterback Akili Smith pounded his chest at the Browns' bench and taunted the fans in the Dawg Pound by making the throat-slash gesture.
In the NBA two seasons ago, Chris Childs of the New York Knicks and Eric Murdock, then of the Miami Heat, exchanged the gestures during a playoff series. The NBA makes any player who taunts subject to a technical foul and "lewd or objectionable behavior" subject to fine and/or suspension.
The NHL similarly assesses penalties for gross misconduct by players.
The NFL's letter specifically included the throat-cutting gesture in its taunting policy, although the league already has handed out penalties under the existing rules.
Favre, for example, was penalized 15 yards Sunday for aiming it in the direction of Detroit's Robert Bailey, a gesture Favre said was in return for one directed at him by Bailey in the teams' first meeting. The league also warned that even if the gesture does not result in a penalty, the player making it is still subject to fine.
The new policy has no effect on end-zone celebrations or other acts not specifically aimed at opposing teams, like players who emphatically gesture for a first down after a successful third-down play.
That wasn't always the case.
In March 1990, almost all spontaneous gestures were banned along with postgame gatherings among opposing players. But that rule was never really enforced after the NFL was ridiculed as the "No Fun League." It was quietly rescinded.
Some teams had already spoken to their players about the gesture.
"It's unnecessary," Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks' coach and general manager, said after Watters slashed his throat toward fans in Kansas City on Sunday.
"We want to be known as a classy group and the players understand that. We'll fix that."