Unsportsmanlike conduct (or unsporting behaviour, or ungentlemanly conduct) is a term used in many professional sports to refer to a particular player or team who has acted inappropriately and/or unprofessionally in the context of the game. Such behaviour is not necessarily illegal according to the sport in question's rules (in contrast to cheating), but is frowned upon by the majority of both players and spectators. The official rules of many sports include a catch-all provision whereby a competitor may be penalised or otherwise cited for unsportsmanlike conduct. This provision allows sports officials to sanction a competitor for offenses which do not violate a specific rule, but are not considered to be in the spirit of the competition.
In American football unsportsmanlike conduct results in a 15 yard penalty, assessed after the completion of a play. When it occurs after a scoring play the 15 yards are assessed on the kickoff. Situations that can incur such a penalty include excessive celebrations after plays, often involving props or multiple players or engaging in taunting against an opponent. Referees can also call unsportsmanlike conduct if a player purposely removes his helmet anywhere in the field of play during or in between plays. Unsportsmanlike conduct can also lead to players being disqualified and ejected from the game. The referees signals unsportsmanlike conduct by holding his arms outstretched with palms facing downward.
In association football, unsporting behaviour is punishable by a caution under law 12 of the laws of the game. Popular examples include extravagant celebration (such as covering one's head with one's jersey or removing it over the head) and simulating actions intended to deceive the referee, also known as diving.
In American basketball, such misconduct is penalized by a technical foul as opposed to a personal foul. The technical foul is akin to a caution in that two such fouls results in an expulsion.
- "NFL Rules Digest: Summary of Penalties". National Football League. http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/penaltysummaries. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
- "NFL Official Signals". National Football League. http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/signals/26. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- "Laws of the Game 2008/2009". FIFA. p. 35. http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/federation/81/42/36/lotg_en.pdf. Retrieved 11 February 2009.