Ezekiel Elliott

The NFL made an abnormal decision Monday morning. And that is OK.

On Sunday Night Football -- a nationally televised NBC primetime broadcast -- Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott dashed into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown against the Buccaneers. Elliott celebrated his score by jumping into a Salvation Army kettle.

Elliott immediately received a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration.

According to Rule 12 (Player Conduct), Section 3, Article 1, subsection (f) of the Official NFL Playing Rules, taunting applies to: "Possession or use of foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or the sideline, or using the ball as a prop."

By definition, Elliott deserved a penalty for using a prop, the kettle.

Elliott took his penalty and moved on, but normally, a flag is not the end of an excessive celebration penalty. Such penalties commonly result in a fine. Chad Johnson and Jimmy Graham were each fined $30,000, the highest fines for touchdown celebrations, according to Bloomberg. Johnson put on a poncho and sombrero in 2009 and Graham dunked the football on the goal posts in 2014. In 2014, Austin Seferian-Jenkins was fined $11,025 for making a Captain Morgan stance on the ball. This season, Antonio Brown was fined $12,154 for twerking in the end zone.

In the past, the NFL has not made exceptions for charity. Last season, DeAngelo Williams, whose mother died of breast cancer in 2014, wore "Find the Cure" eye black outside of the NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Month window, and he was fined $5,787. Teammate Cam Heyward paid a similar tribute to his father, who also died of cancer, wearing eye black displaying his father's nickname, "Ironhead." Heyward was fined $17,363 over two weeks.

This season, the NFL built in a "My Cause My Cleats" week to give players one game to wear custom boots on the field of play, as long as they promoted a charity. However, such a practice is disallowed for all 16 other weeks.

Although for a good cause -- publicizing The Salvation Army around the holiday season -- Elliott used an outside prop to celebrate a touchdown. Using a cause as a defense has not held up recently in the so-called "No Fun League."

"My dream is that the NFL would fine the daylights out of him, and I’m going to take them to the Supreme Court," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday night. "And we're going to get the Salvation Army a lot of notice there."


But NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy tweeted this news Monday morning:

This is a big step in the right direction for the NFL. Brand relationships and the league's focus on discipline have sometimes caused the NFL to overlook the public relations side of things in favor of following the rulebook.

Elliott is kind of fining himself by announcing he will make a donation to The Salvation Army. 

Elliott was reportedly prepared to match an NFL fine with a donation.

According to TMZ Sports, Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, spokesperson for The Salvation Army, claims the organization has seen an increase in donations of $21 (Elliott's number) since last evening. "From 8:10 p.m. to 10:30 a.m. this morning there was a 61 percent increase in online giving from the same time frame last Sunday night," Busroe says.

Elliott and his Cowboys teammates worked with The Salvation Army a month ago.

The bottom line is the NFL got this right. And it probably was not as easy a decision at the league office as one may think. The NFL fears a slippery slope and this opens the door for other prop-related celebrations. "On the one hand, the NFL's decision only reinforces the idea that the league's fines and penalties for celebrations are wildly inconsistent," notes Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.

Maybe. Or maybe the NFL is trending in the right direction. Ezekiel Elliott, a rising face of the league, brought exposure to a charity at perhaps its most relevant time of the year. He broke a few rules to do this, but in the grand scheme, Elliott did much more good than bad by jumping in that kettle. The NFL realized this -- and realized the PR value of skipping a fine -- and made the just decision. Maybe the league is willing to have more fun and allow more support in philanthropic endeavors.

Remember this feeling, NFL. Remember what it is like, the whole getting compliments from people thing. Feel comfortable with this.

And maybe while you are at it, tweak the rules for 2017 to give players leeway when it comes to supporting charities with millions of people watching your product in primetime.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.