Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for sliding on his knees and praying after scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots on Monday night.
The flag drew criticism since Christian prayers are never punished for kneeling after a touchdown and Abdullah is a Muslim.
According to the rule book at least, it’s illegal to go to ground when celebrating a touchdown. While there isn’t an official exception for religion-based celebrations, NFL spokesperson Michael Signora said on Tuesday that Abdullah should have never been penalised:
Here’s the celebration/prayer:
Abdullah should not have been penalised. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) September 30, 2014
The rule book says:
“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.”
It’s strange that the excessive celebration rule focuses on going to ground given how often players do it to pray. It seems that they’re just setting themselves up for an embarrassing mix-up like this.
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