Religious Privilege Has Arrived In The NFL

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photo of Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for praying
Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for praying

On Monday night, Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown. He decided to celebrate the big play and knelt to the ground in the endzone to pray. He was penalized according to the rulebook but the next day the NFL said it goofed. Now there is one set of rules for religious players and another set for those who don’t wear their religion on their sleeves. Religious privilege has arrived in the NFL.

When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.

But Abdullah, a devout Muslim, found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL. Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in the end zone.

By 9:30 a.m., the NFL had clarified the ruling. “Abdullah should not have been penalized,” Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. “Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”

NFL penalizes Muslim player for praying; league says it was wrong (updated)

According to the official rulebook there is no religious exception.

(d) 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.

Note 5: Violations of (d) will be penalized if they occur anywhere on the field other than the bench area.

NFL Rulebook

Abdullah shouldn’t have been flagged only because they never flagged Tim Tebow – a Christian – who also knelt to the ground to pray. The NFL saying there is a religious exception to the rule was a lie to cover their ass.

By the way, Tebow prayed a lot when he played and yet he was still a terrible quarterback who is now in TV. That must mean god is no better with choosing talent than me picking players for my fantasy football team?

I feel sorry for talented players who have to give credit to a god for their skill rather than the real reason – a natural ability mixed with lots of practice. No matter how much you rely on god you still have to perform at a certain skill level or you don’t play.

What if we relied on god for other skills? I would be very concerned if my neurosurgeon (for example) thanked god for not killing me while the doctor drilled my skull during a procedure.

The football players who take time after a big play to pray are violating the rules and all of them should be penalized just as if they did a dance or took off their helmets and strut around.

Having two rulebooks is unfair.


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