Excessive Celebration, or Religious Tribute?
Written by Stephanie Rodriguez. Media by Matt Miller.
On September 29th the Kansas City Chiefs played against the New England Patriots in Kansas City, MO at Arrowhead Stadium ending with a 41-14 victory. A Monday Night football which was one of the most anticipated games of that week was overshadowed not by the fact that it was a complete blowout, but because of a controversial penalty called in the final quarter.
During the fourth quarter, Chiefs safety and devout Muslim, Husain Abdullah, intercepted a pass from Tom Brady. He then ran the ball back 39 yards and when he reached the end zone for the touchdown he slid to the ground on his knees and prayed. Abdullah was specifically flagged for “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” and the Chiefs were penalized 15 yards.
In an interview with Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, Abdullah said, “If I get a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone.” He promised himself that he would show his respect if he ever scored.
This sparked controversy on social media. After the game Abdullah told reporters that he was penalized for sliding, not for praying. However, Chiefs Coach, Andy Reid, stated to reporters, “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.”
In Section 3 – Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Article 1 (d), of Rule 12 from the 2013 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League, it forbids, “Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground. A celebration or demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate or demonstrate after a warning from an official.”
A statement was issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy organization, demanding that the NFL respond to the penalty. Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR spokesman said, “To prevent the appearance of a double standard, we urge league officials to clarify the policy on prayer and recognize that the official made a mistake in this case.”
On Tuesday NFL Spokesman, Michael Signora, responded with an email saying that, “the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play.”
Throughout many football games, the league has shown patience to Christian players who have celebrated by kneeling in prayer on the field – not getting penalized. Tim Tebow never got penalized for kneeling on one knee to pray. In the NFL Rulebook, it doesn’t state that there’s an exception for any religion. There shouldn’t be preferences and Abdullah, along with the Muslim community, deserves an apology.
It is said that Abdullah was penalized for sliding on both knees to pray. There is no such thing as immoderate celebration. As for now, Abdullah says this is a lesson learned and that next time he will stop before dropping to his knees.