Justin Jefferson, easily the biggest star on the Minnesota Vikings if not the entire NFL, was not stoked on a viral sign that has been making the rounds across the NFL’s social media accounts in lieu of the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ NFC Divisional round matchup.
Yall wild for posting this This ain’t cool!! https://t.co/dLjWPWIFtK— JJETS✈️ (@JJettas2) January 22, 2024
The sign is supposed to reference Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, given over 3 years ago, in which he stated “we’re going to kick you in the teeth, all right, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you and when you knock us down, we’re going to get up. And, on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off.”
For non-Lions fans however, that sign was construed as referencing the biggest black spots on an otherwise feel-good story in the league this year. That relates to Lions CB Kirby Joseph and his propensity for ACL-tearing tackles in which he clearly targeted the lower leg of Vikings’ TE TJ Hockenson and Los Angeles Rams’ TE Tyler Higbee.
Perhaps the most damning reference to the two injuries is that “kneecap” and “other kneecap” is posed next to the two teams on which Hockenson and Higbee play for. It’s hard not to think of the sign as bragging about injuries that were the result of dirty play.
It’s hard to overlook that this fan was probably referencing those two injuries, although there is just enough vagueness for ‘some’ doubt as to it’s meaning. For Vikings and Rams’ fans though, it’s clearly a bad look that the league glorified it with visibility on it’s social channels.
At worst, it’s the NFL clearly glorifying dirty play. At best, it is an insensitive misstep by the league’s social media team. Either way, it’s infuriating for fans of the game, especially for the fans, players, and organizations of the two teams which have had stars suffer dreaded ACL tears.