Flopping may be defined as, "The action of deliberately falling or stumbling in order to give the appearance of having been fouled by an opponent."
Some sportswriters say that “flopping” in the NBA is out of control. Players will engage in this if they can gain even the slightest competitive edge over their opponent. At the time of a potential infraction, the NBA officials on the court are instructed to not call flopping at the time. The league office will review potential rule-breakers before ever assessing a fine. The first infraction receives a warning, and fines would be given out with infractions 2 - 5 issuing a fine (5,000, 10,000, 15,000 & 30,000 respectively). (One other thing to note, NBA officials can call a technical foul on the infraction but often they swallow their whistle when this occurs.)
To provide context, only one flopping fine was assessed through the 2020-21 campaign.
There may have been several warnings this past season but that information is unavailable. So it appears you have a rule on the books with potential consequences and fines but only 1 player was assessed a fine last year. Am I gullible to believe this rarely occurs in the National Basketball Association because of that one meager fine? Or, is something else going on?
There appears to be an imbalance between enforcement and occurrence. If a rule or law is rarely enforced, human nature shows us the occurrence will increase -- especially if a player can gain an advantage in doing so. If moderately or strictly enforced, the imbalance will logically tip in the other direction.
On to European football (what Americans call soccer), most of these fans and leagues are strongly against flopping -- many announcers refer to it as cynical play. If you flop on the pitch, there’s a chance you'll receive a yellow card – especially if it’s a blatant attempt or is subject to video review. For those keeping score, a yellow card is a much harsher penalty than only being assessed one foul in NBA basketball (allotted 6 total fouls). A second yellow in the same game means you’re removed from the game and will miss the following game too. Yellow appears to be the appropriate color to use, it essentially tells the player to be more cautious about their reckless play – some of these actions can pose a physical danger to other players. Referees don’t always catch this contemptuous act but the threat of a “yellow” typically keeps players in line.
On to professional hockey, the Stanley Cup Finals this year featured the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Montreal Canadians. Montreal lost the first three games and Tampa had them on the ropes in game 4 but the Habs pulled it out. In the latter part of the series, a 2-minute minor penalty was called against one of the Canadians’ defensemen. The infraction said by the referee was “Embellishment,” so my mind took notice. I have rarely heard that term even used in public and a term I had never heard in the Stanley Club finals, playoffs, or a regular-season game.
An embellishment infraction in hockey is also referred to as diving or flopping but the actual term used by the broadcast was embellishment. They get their cue from their broadcasting partner, NBC Sports. Even though this rule is on the books, I can’t ever remember this type of penalty being assessed. When I say I can't remember, I'm referring to terms such as diving, embellishment or diving used in the broadcast. Why this infraction rarely is called? Could it be that most hockey players are too proud to behave in that manner on the ice?
Is it that most NHL pros when younger and playing on a frozen pond or lake would not allow this to occur during pickup hockey? When you’re young, you want to play as a team to find some way of defeating your opponent, the same one you're trying to wrestle the puck from. I played very rudimentary hockey a little bit and no one on the ice felt compelled to “act like a goon” and fake a penalty. They may act like a goon in other manners but had no intentions of faking a penalty.
If a great player’s evolution on getting to the NHL is beginning to flop at 10 years old, he didn’t learn this on his own, someone must have taught him. But if it’s Ok at that level, there’s a good chance he flops at 15, or 20 years of age. If he then attempts to "flop" at the junior level hockey in Canada, college hockey or the NHL, he’d be reprimanded by the team captain and other teammates. The same principle applies to a hockey player who never learned to dive at any of the levels as he made his way to the NHL. So my point is, if you flopped early in your career or didn’t, it won’t make a difference because it’s not tolerated today in the NHL. Hence, this penalty is rarely called in the NHL because it rarely happens.
Flopping has indeed made its way into the NFL and also college football. When I see this occurring on the gridiron, it appears to me that most of the flopping in the NFL occurs among wide receivers and cornerbacks – as this competition sometimes appears like a catfight. Each player will clutch and grab and bump in the hopes of making a successful play. Sometimes, a personal foul (unsportsmanlike conduct) is called on the player trying to entice the official to call a foul against their opponent but honestly, this is not enforced regularly and consistently so you can imagine this type of manipulative behavior continues to exist in pro football.
When a player falls to the ground unnecessarily in European football, opposing players will be the first to inform the referee of such action. If an overly dramatic player is being sincere, a slight bump by an opponent should necessitate that said player to act like they've been hit by cannon fire. In the NBA, many players on many teams try to dive in the hopes of gaining an advantage so there are fewer complaints by opponents when this occurs. It’s the old adage; everyone is doing it so I might as well to remain competitive. It’s just not a good look when a player tries to trick the referee or official into making a call to their advantage. Like I said earlier, International Football calls it cynical play and the NHL calls this "Embellishment" but this rule has not been strictly enforced by the NBA or NFL. Time will tell if either league begins to crack down on this calculating and manipulating stunt.