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11 Strange Things That Have Been Banned in Sports

The reason NHL players can't tuck in their jerseys, why pro basketballers aren't allowed to tweet at certain times, and other perfectly normal behaviors that are prohibited in the sports world, explained.

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Coach talking with team while timeoutSergey Mironov/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Tuck in their jerseys

In 2013, the NHL debuted this bizarre rule alongside several other stipulations about hockey players’ uniforms. “Rule 9.5” states that “players are not permitted to tuck their jersey into their pants in such a manner where the top padding of the pant…is exposed outside the jersey.” If the top padding of any player’s pants is not covered by the back of the jersey, that player can be sent to the penalty box. Since “tucking in your shirt” seems rather out-of-place among other hockey offenses like fighting and stick-checking, this rule has fans and players alike raising their eyebrows. The NHL has cited “safety reasons,” but some players and fans have speculated that the NFL is planning on putting advertisements on the back of their jerseys, advertisements that they’ll want unobstructed. Here are some more unusual things that are banned in the United States.

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Players can’t: Use asthma inhalers

Multiple sports organizations have banned the use of inhalers, including the NFL and the NBA. While many people genuinely need inhalers to combat asthma and shortness of breath, the powers-that-be worry that non-asthmatic athletes will use them to boost their lung capacity and endurance. This provides an unfair advantage, especially in sports like swimming, where increased lung capacity is a huge asset. If an athlete does need an inhaler, the dosage and the type of inhaler must comply with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency‘s regulations. If you’re not a fan of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some alternative things you can do besides watching the game.

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A man hold Apple iPhone 6 plus open Twitter application,Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read "tweets"Mr.Whiskey/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Tweet

It’s no secret that professional athletes have social media accounts. But in the NBA, players are not allowed to use social media during games, in addition to the 45 minutes before and after the games. One might argue that this ban is a little unsuited to today’s digitally-driven world. Others might say that pro athletes have enough notoriety and can stand to stay off their phones for a few hours. Whatever your opinion, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is on board. “We’re coming to work and we’re coming to get a job done. That’s not time for social media,” he told ESPN.

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Tennis player signs autograph on a tennis ball after win, closeup photo showing tennis ball and hands of a man making signature, Australian open, US open.Sasha Samardzija/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Sign autographs

Well, under certain circumstances. It’s perfectly acceptable for a college athlete to put their John Hancock on a fan’s merchandise…unless that fan offers them money for it. Because of the ease with which fans and merchandizers can monetize autographs, though, the whole practice has become controversial in college athletics. A few players have gotten in legal trouble, and even suspended from play, in the last few years for allegedly taking cash in exchange for signatures. This has led some schools to prohibit their players from signing autographs completely. Learn some secrets a high school sports coach won’t tell you.

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American FootballRobert Nyholm/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Salute

The NFL has cracked down on certain player celebrations recently, especially ones that could be seen as a “taunt” toward other players. You’d think a salute would be one of the harmless ones, but apparently not. If a player salutes in the direction of another player, it could be seen as “disrespectful” and earn him an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty. Touchdown-scorers will just have to keep their hands to themselves, it seems. They are, however, allowed to salute the fans. Here are some surprising behaviors you didn’t know were considered rude around the world.

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American FootballRobert Nyholm/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Spin footballs

As many football aficionados know, many players who’ve just scored touchdowns will channel their inner basketball player and twirl the ball in the end zone. In 2013, though, the NFL announced more stringent regulation of touchdown celebrations like this one. And the crackdown on spinning is not the only ball-related ban that plagues football stars. They also can’t “dunk” the ball over the goal posts, or “spike” it in the direction of another player. Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots learned this “spiking” rule the hard way in 2011, when he got fined $7,500 after his spiked ball got a little too close to a Jets linebacker. For more football fun facts, check out these things you never knew about the Super Bowl.

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CARSON, CA - JULY 15: Michael Carrick during Manchester United's summer tour friendly against the L.A. Galaxy on July 15th 2017 at the StubHub Center.Photo Works/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Take off their shirts

This may not seem quite as strange as not being allowed to tuck it in, but still seems like an odd thing to ban outright. In 2003, FIFA prohibited soccer players from removing their jerseys to celebrate scoring a goal. This was partly because bare torsos are considered offensive among some of FIFA’s worldwide viewership, but the primary reason has to do with—you guessed it—advertising. Some sponsors were unhappy that the cameras were showing shirtless players in lieu of their logos. Many viewers mourned the impending loss of eye candy, but the rule hasn’t stopped some players from shedding their shirts. Check out these ridiculous requirements for cities that host the Super Bowl.

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Dec 9, 2017 - Beijing, China: Former NBA Player Yi Jianlian warms up in NIKE shoes before a CBA game between Beijing Fly Dragons and Guangdong, on December 9, 2017, in Beijing, China.zhangjin_net/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Display logos

With all the drama over advertisers wanting more visibility for their logos, this rule comes as a bit of a surprise. In the NBA, players are not allowed to display logos anywhere on their person, except for their shoes. New York Knicks player Iman Shumpert learned this rule the hard, and rather embarrassing, way when he shaved part of his hair to look like the Adidas logo. The NBA enforced Item 5 of Section H of the NBA rule book’s “extended comments,” which says that “The only article bearing a commercial ‘logo’ which can be worn by players is their shoes.”

Shumpert had to eliminate the trademarked imagery, leaving him with a bald triangle on the back of his head. He was a good sport about it, though, and shared a before-and-after Instagram photo with the caption “#banned…sry @nba.” Here are some more unusual things that have been banned around the world.

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PINGTUNG, TAIWAN, APRIL 8: Batter Zhang of the President Lions hits the ball in a game of the China Pro Baseball League against the Lamigo Monkeys. The Lions won 2:0 on April 8, 2012 in Pingtung.Shi Yali/Shutterstock

Players can’t: Use too much pine tar

You may have seen baseball players going up to bat and smacking that gooey copper-colored stuff on their bats to improve their grip. The technical name for the stuff is pine tar, and its use in baseball is controversial. Batters are allowed to use this grip-enhancing goo; they just can’t cover more than 18 inches of their bats with it. This rule came into the public consciousness in 1983, when the ominously named “Pine Tar Incident” resulted in the negation of a two-run home run. After Kansas City Royal George Brett hit a two-run homer against the New York Yankees, the Yankee manager called him out for having too much pine tar on his bat. The umpire sided with the manager, and Brett’s double run was instead declared an out.

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Bartender on the street bar handing a plastic glass of beer to a customer, holding the cup on top; during a street sporting event DeymosHR/Shutterstock

Spectators can’t: Booze it up

Who here loves kicking back at a live sporting event, grabbing a cold beer, and watching the game? If you do, you’ll be disappointed if you ever decide to catch a soccer match in Brazil. Since 2003, the sale of alcohol has been prohibited in an effort to curtail fans getting out of hand. This ban may not be permanent, though, and indeed, it’s already been temporarily overturned. In 2014, when Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA General Secretary said that selling alcohol at World Cup games was nonnegotiable. A bill went into effect that allowed the ban to be lifted during the month of the World Cup. Watch out for these things you should never say in a sports bar.

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JOHANNESBURG - JULY 11 : Final at Soccer City Stadium: Spain vs. Netherlands on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg. Spanish supporter with vuvuzelaVladimir Melnik/Shutterstock

Spectators can’t: Toot their own horns

One of the most notorious bans in recent sports history has to be the outright prohibition of “vuvuzelas.” When you attend a sporting event, big, noisy crowds are inevitable, especially at one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the FIFA World Cup. But when fans at the 2010 World Cup began trumpeting on these plastic horns that produced a sound akin to a swarm of buzzing bees, FIFA decided that a line had been crossed. According to the Telegraph, the flimsy-looking trumpet produced a sound louder than a chainsaw, and FIFA was concerned that it might damage spectators’ hearing, or even endanger their safety by drowning out announcements in the stadium. In time for the 2014 World Cup, FIFA issued a ban on vuvuzelas and all other musical instruments. Next, check out some more surprising things that aren’t allowed in sports stadiums.


Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.