Following Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah’s pick-six, he went to the ground and prostrated. Abdullah is a devout Muslim and many know that such actions are common with the religion. However, he was given a penalty flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct — mainly for going to the ground in celebration.
Naturally, there was a negative reaction to this, with people claiming that someone shouldn’t be flagged for praying.
But first, let’s look at the rule in Section 3. Article 1. Line D.
“Individual players involved in prolonged or excessive celebrations. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground. A celebration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate after a warning from an official.”
The part bolded is what the offense was. However, I don’t think that Abdullah was penalized for praying. It was what he did before that. After he scored, he used his momentum to slide on both knees. I interpret that as violation of the rules. It was only that he prostrated afterward that people are angry about.
Take a look at the above GIF again. The official at the bottom, signaling touchdown, reaches for the flag right after Abdullah completes the slide. It wasn’t after he completed his prayer. It appears to be a reaction to the slide.
If this is the case, then the explanation can only be that he was flagged for sliding. If it wasn’t, then the NFL has a lot of explaining to do.
This is why Brandon Marshall has never been fined for going to his knee to look up to the heavens. This is why Tim Tebow never got a flag (even though he never did “Tebowing” after a touchdown, despite popular belief). What Abdullah did was a violation, even though his intent was not bad at all. But the rules are the rules.
That’s Abdullah’s agent. I doubt there will be a fine. I just think there will need to be clarification.
There has been some mentions that any form of religious act for a celebration should be an exception, that it overrides the rule. That is not going to work. Then players can make up religions and say that their religious act to their god is hanging on the goal post. Any disagreement by the league will be viewed as religious discrimination and that could get messy. It just doesn’t work that way.
Another argument is that officials should know what is a religious act. This goes back to the last argument. Officials are not supposed to be religious scholars who know the every action of the thousands of religions out there. That’s not their job. They are there to enforce the rules, not remember ever single individual exception there is per person. This might be why the flag was thrown. The official simply might not know.
That’s why religion and football together can cause so much confusion.
The best solution is just get some clarification and move on. Abdullah did break the rule with his slide, even though it was a harmless act. Rules are rules. He shouldn’t be fined but I think the flag was justified. I am not a fan of it, but I understand the reason for the enforcement.
EDIT: We have clarification.