Ever since the Ray Rice scandal blew up earlier in September, the debate surrounding the football league failing to take any disciplinary action against physical abusers has intensified – to an extent that people are now demanding Commissioner Roger Goodell step down.
However, despite all the controversy and condemnation, it looks like the NFL just can’t seem to learn from its mistakes.
In Monday night's game between the Patriots and the Chiefs, the home side's safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for the most absurd reason ever – kneeling down on the ground in prayer for celebrating a touchdown.
To quote the exact words from the referee, the player was flagged for "unsportsmanlike conduct, going to the ground.”
Since Christian players pray on the field quite often and similar celebratory expressions are not officially banned, (Tebowing anyone?) the NFL’s decision to punish Abdullah – who is a practicing Muslim – has prompted a furious backlash.
In addition, former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira stated in a 2009 interview that he would never punish a player for praying on the field. He stated:
“The whole issue is, you can’t go to the ground on your knees or with your hand or anything. There’s only one time that you’re going to be allowed to go on your knee after you score like this, and that’s when you want to praise the Lord. If you do that, then I’m going to allow that, because I do not want to be struck by lightning, I promise you that. We will allow that.”
And last year he reiterated the same point in a tweet:
you're not penalized for going to the ground to give praise after a TD— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 25, 2013
Although, as we mentioned above, celebratory expressions on the field involving prayer are not officially banned, maybe it’s time the league came up with less vague rules to avoid confusion and uproar.
While NFL has yet to comment on the incident, Abdullah's agent was quite unhappy with the penalty.
If the NFL tries to fine @HAbdullah39 for his TD celebration there's going to be some problems.— CJ LaBoy (@CJLaBoy) September 30, 2014