NFL Penalizes Muslim Player for Touchdown Prayer

Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah gets 15-yard penalty for 'unsportsmanlike conduct'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2014 7:31 AM CDT
NFL Hits Muslim Player With Penalty for TD Prayer
Muslim NFL player Husain Abdullah has received a penalty after celebrating a touchdown by dropping to his knees in prayer.   (WorldBreakingNews 24x7)

Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah is a devout Muslim: He fasts during Ramadan—even during the NFL's grueling training season—and took off the entire 2012 season with his brother Hamza (an ex-NFL safety) to tour mosques around the country and make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the NFL notes. So when he intercepted the ball last night and ran for 39 yards to score a touchdown against the Patriots, it wasn't that surprising that he fell to his knees in what appeared to be a quick religious prayer. But that two-second prostration (which you can see as a GIF on SB Nation) earned Abdullah a 15-yard "unsportsmanlike conduct penalty" for apparently violating the league's celebration rules, USA Today reports.

A look at the rule and reactions:

  • Abdullah's prayer was reportedly a violation of an NFL rule that states "players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground," the Kansas City Star reports. But last year, as noted by SB Nation, former NFL rules guru and ref Mike Pereira pointed out that this rule isn't meant to come down on a quiet religious gesture: "You're not penalized for going to the ground to give praise after a TD."
  • Abdullah's gesture also closely resembles Tim Tebow's famous and "widely celebrated" genuflection, Rodger Sherman writes on SB Nation, noting, "The only differences between the two are the positions of their knees and shoulders, the faiths they belong to, and whether or not the NFL's referees called a penalty."
  • It's not like Abdullah hadn't mentioned this might happen: "If I get a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone," he said in the Star.
  • Abdullah also tells the Star he thinks he may have received the penalty because he slid into the prayer after he got a "little too excited," but his coach, Andy Reid, says, "When you go to Mecca, you should be able to slide wherever you want. We’ve got two priests in here. They'd probably vouch for me."
(More NFL stories.)

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