Muslim NFL player Husain Abdullah strikes a prayer pose after scoring a touchdown. He was penalized soon after.

Image: NFL
By Jason Abbruzzese2014-09-30 14:05:29 UTC

A short slide followed by a brief moment on his hands and knees resulted in an excessive celebration penalty on Kansas City Chiefs defensive player Husain Abdullah during Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots.

It has also ignited fierce criticism from those who see the penalty as a double standard, and the NFL has since backtracked on flagging the Chiefs safety.

Abdullah, a devout Muslim, intercepted Tom Brady during the fourth quarter of last night’s blowout, running the turnover back for a touchdown. After several steps into the end zone, Abdullah slid to his knees and bent to put his hands on the ground in a prayer pose.

The move resulted in a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration enforced on the following kickoff. The NFL’s rulebook prohibits a variety of “unsportsmanlike conduct” including “any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.” The severe crackdown on end zone celebrations has earned the NFL the nickname, the “No Fun League.”

(H/T to Deadspin for the GIFs.)


Image: NFL

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Image: NFL

However, religious expressions are protected against penalty in the NFL. Tim Tebow’s kneel has grown into an iconic move known as “Tebowing.”

Tim Tebow, a Christian, kneels in the end zone to pray & gets a trademark. Husain Abdullah, a Muslim, bows to pray & gets a 15-yard penalty.

— Nathan Lean (@nathanlean) September 30, 2014

Abdullah said after the game that he believed the penalty was for the slide and not the kneel.

Still, others asked the NFL to clarify the reason for Abdullah’s penalty.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations wants NFL to clarify why Hussain Abdullah was penalized for going to the ground for Muslim prayer

— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 30, 2014

On Tuesday morning, the NFL acknowledged that Abdullah should not have been flagged.

Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.

— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) September 30, 2014

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