Husain Abdullah

Husain Abdullah of the Chiefs was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after celebrating a pick 6 by dropping to the ground and praying to Allah.

Last night the Kansas City Chiefs dominated all aspects of the game in a 41-14 win over the New England Patriots. Shining in his role in the Chiefs’ stout defense was Safety Husain Abdullah who scored a touchdown after intercepting Tom Brady. After scoring the touchdown Abdullah dropped to his knees and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The issue, however, is that Abdullah is a devout Muslim and he went to the ground in prayer to thank Allah.

ESPN quotes the NFL Rulebook Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) which states, “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.” However, the NFL was quick this morning to release a statement saying that this rule was not meant to prevent players from expressing their religious beliefs. Tuesday morning, Michael Signora, representative of the league, released this tweet:

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the NFL to respond to the penalty stating, “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.” The double standard Hooper is referring to is the countless times Christians have dropped to their knees in prayer, most notably, Tim Tebow. After the NFL’s announcement, Hooper told the Huffington Post that the organization is pleased with the league’s quick response.

However, while at first glance, it may seem that the referees were clearly in the wrong with the call, Abdullah, his coach Andy Reid, and the officials all agree that the call was not entirely out of line because the call was not about his bowing in prayer but the slide he took leading up to the bow. “I don’t think it was because of the actual prostration that I got the penalty,” Abdullah told reporters after the game. “I think it was because of the slide.” In the future, he knows what to do, “It’s the slide. Come to a full stop, get down, make the prostration, get up and get out.”

The NFL has made it clear, however, that officials are not to call unsportsmanlike conduct for those celebrating with religious gestures. This comes as a relief to many but to Abdullah in particular as he is returning to the game after a season long absence in which he made the pilgrimage to Mecca that is required of practicing Muslims.

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