NFL says Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for praying after touchdown

AP

Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah followed in the footsteps of many other players on Monday night when he celebrated his interception return for a touchdown by going to his knees in prayer.

Unlike those other players, Abdullah was penalized for going to the ground under the league’s rules for unsportsmanlike conduct. The only difference between Abdullah and the other players was that Abdullah is Muslim and his prayer therefore looked a bit different than what we’ve seen from others, although that didn’t make it any odder since the NFL doesn’t have rules governing which deity their players are permitted to offer thanks to after a touchdown.

Abdullah said he thought the penalty might have been for sliding to his knees rather than dropping, but NFL spokesman Michael Signora didn’t split any hairs on Tuesday when announcing that the official erred in throwing the flag.

“Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown,” Signora wrote in an email to PFT. “Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states ‘players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.’  However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play.”

Whatever the reason for the official’s misunderstanding of Abdullah’s intent, it is good to see the league act quickly to make it clear that the official and not Abdullah was in error.

116 responses to “NFL says Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for praying after touchdown

  1. “..since the NFL doesn’t have rules governing which deity their players are permitted to offer thanks to after a touchdown”

    Are you seriously unaware that the Judeo-Christian deity and Allah are one in the same? There is no dispute.

  2. So now officials need to know how every religion expresses their beliefs? This could lead to huge orchestrated celebrations or demonstrations because they are deemed as part of religious expression. They will need an expert on all religious customs in the review booth.

  3. You should be able to pray whenever you want, as long as it doesn’t delay other events from happening. Pray on your sideline instead of looking for the attention on the field.

  4. Muslims have the same deity as Christians and have a glowing opinion of Jesus… And that official had the nerve to throw the flag while knowing the next day the league would do. He made his opinion on Muslims very clear.

  5. If only Rice and Peterson were busy praying instead of abusing, Goodell’s life would be a little easier spending and growing his $43,000,000 yearly salary.

  6. So you can pray to your favorite “GOD” (even the so-called religion of peace) and that is not considered disruptive, but Jimmy Graham cant high five the crossbar of a goalpost without a 15 yarder called on him?

  7. And even better if they can get as quick as possible by developing a process to override a penalty or any type of mistake before it becomes official, otherwise the integrity of the outcome of the game is tampered with and the team that should have won could leave the field with a loss. Ideally that would never happen so that’s what they should aim for.

  8. As a Christian, I say “good for him,” expressing his peaceful and heartfelt belief in an unprovocative way.

  9. This is an organization that purposely sets up my sons to unwillingly watch a male swapping tongue’s with another male while watching what we thought was a pro football draft.

    Why are we discussing whether their social engineering agenda is right or wrong?

    Sit back and accept what you are fed. It is good.

  10. If a person wants to pray, that’s his business. Good grief, man. Sandy Koufax didn’t pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 World Series. Guess he should have put his religious convictions aside to play baseball….a kid’s game.

  11. I think what I like the best about all of this, is that everyone seems to be on the same page regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof.

    The flag was wrong and everyone gets it.

  12. classyjacklambert says: Sep 30, 2014 10:14 AM

    How about we stop penalizing celebrations on scores unless they are really offensive or time wasting.

    And how does the league establish quantifiable, repeatable standards as to what is “really” offensive or time-wasting? Somebody somewhere is ALWAYS going to be offended by something, so the risk managers set the standard to zero-tolerance to side-step any liability.

  13. Another blight against goodell. This is what the nfl looks like under his watch. A joke. What possible reason was a flag thrown???

    We should be talking about the possible collapse of the great patriot dynasty this morning instead of this. Every Monday morning, we’re talking about bad penalties instead.

    #firegoodell!!

  14. “However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play.”

    So the League teaches officials to not call a penalty in that situation. Fire the official then. There should be no room for bigotry. I’m guessing if Tebow did that, the SAME GUY throws no flag. Abdullah scores a TD in the NFL. I guess he still views Muslims as the “outsider,” the “other” no matter what.

    He did it to the “Patriots,” who wear red, white, and blue, and obviously, we can’t allow a Muslim to disrespect America.

  15. I doubt that official had any idea what the religion of that player was. I don’t think the players religion had anything to do with his decision to throw a penalty.

    I think it was just a bad judgement call and a mis-interpretation of the celebration rule by the ref.

  16. I seen part of the clip, it looked like he slid and was down for a couple seconds. How long did he prey for ? If it was more than 3 seconds then maybe, but he got right back up it looked like.

  17. By all means, lets discourage any public religious expression in the NFL. With all the recent publicity for spousal abuse and substance abuse, we certainly don’t want anyone briefly giving thanks to God in the end-zone.

  18. So now the ref has to be able to distinguish, in that split second, what’s religious, what’s not and if he’s willing to overlook it while everyone else has the benefit of replay….yeah, that’s reasonable (smh).

  19. People who think this is about God caring or not caring about football scores need to check their ignorance at the door. It’s about giving thanks, something our selfish, me-driven society could really use more of.

  20. There is no doubt that should be penalized. The rule is about going to the ground in celebration… he did indeed do that. If you are to make that exception the rule is broken beyond use; the “delay” caused by that is minimal anyway.

  21. The real story here is the refs don’t know the rules. The NFL has made it so difficult to referee we are seeing horrible calls in every single game. JJ Watt hit the QB in the hip and he was called for going too low. Dan Skuta hit Drew Stanton when he was still standing up and he was called for unnecessary roughness. The 49ers were called for 2 offensive pass interference plays where the WR never even touched or rerouted the DB. The NFL rules are what’s wrong with the game. The NFL is losing entertainment value because of poor officiating which is a direct result of the rule book.

  22. The NFL messed this one up big time. What they should’ve said was that he was flagged for the slide prior to the prayer which is by rule, illegal. Instead they wanted to get out in front of this fake scandal.

  23. Instead of PFT keeping a running list of player arrests (or whatever), they need to keep a running list of blunders and blown calls by the officials, who are completely ruining this once-great game.

    Every single week, in countless games, scores of flags come raining down out of nowhere for phantom infractions that no one – including fans, coaches, players, analysts and announcers – can find any evidence of.

    In other cases, where is some evidence of penalty, there’s absolutely no consistency, no rhyme or reason as to what is called, and when.

    What’s worse, is that these irresponsible, intrusive and inconsistent calls are completely changing the outcome of games.

    On at least 4 occasions in the Bears-Packers game last week, the refs intrusively dictated a different outcome than the REAL result of the play…here;s two quick examples: ref calls “hands to the face” against Peppers (when it was actually the Bears o-linemen who committed the penalty AGAINST Peppers), giving the Bears a TD, then a totally bogus “defensive holding” against Bears LB Bostic on a FG attempt, giving the Packers 1st and goal (and ultimately a TD), and so on, and so on. On at least 3 crucial occasions, Bears defense should have been off the field on 4th down, and refs kept the drives alive.

    Flags are no longer just a “part of the game”, they have become THE game itself – they now dictate the outcome of most NFL games. Whoever gets the benefit of the officials’ capricious heavy-handed interference, comes out on top.

  24. Bleh. So much hating on religion in here.

    Anyway, just want to comment on *one* thing:

    “How about we stop penalizing celebrations on scores unless they are really offensive or time wasting.”

    Well, see, that’s exactly why this particular penalty was added. Players would go to the ground and it takes time to get up, so that would delay the refs from getting the ball spotted for the point-after try and continuing the play of the game. Some of the cases were getting ridiculous. So they had to put in a rule, and then put in an exception.

    I don’t mind people taking a moment to do a “prayer” (more likely a thanks to Allah than a prayer, ditto for thanking God), it’s no different than someone doing some kind of dance move or something. I’m better with a guy giving thanks to Allah for the talent that allowed him to pick off Tom Brady for a score than I am with, say, two guys celebrating a sack by acting like they’re taking a selfie, or doing a windmill dance (both things that one of the guys on my favorite team do… the latter because he earned the nickname “Windmill” for the way his arms moved when he’d get pushed away from the QB).

  25. My religion strictly states that all my celebrations (sporst or otherwise) should be done upside down on my head as I do a 360 spin. I’d love for you to see where exactly it states that. But my religion prevents me from showing it to non-believers.

  26. @nyyjetsknicks:

    Jesus’s words recorded in the book of Matthew are specifically related to showing off for the sake of looking good. It’s not really saying you aren’t allowed to pray in public. It’s saying don’t do it just so people think you are a good person.

  27. I also agree that God doesn’t care about who wins the football game, but what’s wrong with being really thankful about your SECOND career TD? It didn’t look like Abdullah was showboating to me; rather it looked humble and sincere. Plus, as a safety and a role player, it’s not like those opportunities come around all the time. We all know that in the NFL, the next play could be your last.

  28. i agree with the CB i have seen worse celebrations then that and not even a flag thrown whats going on with the NFL these days its not the same anymore

  29. I respect his religion and his right to practice it. But, I wasn’t aware Muslims were required to slide on grass for 6 yards before starting their prayer.

  30. There is zero consistency in the way NFL referees call penalties.

    Either you can go to the ground or you can’t. What if in Antonio Brown’s religion falling over beside a spinning ball was how you prayed?

    Either flag Tebow and every other attention seeking narcissist who goes to the ground or don’t.

    Maybe make a five second rule. Do whatever you want but keep it under five seconds. Spin on the ground like Curly from the Three Stooges or autograph the ball or whip out a cell phone and make a call but if it lasts more than 5 seconds you get a 15 yard penalty.

  31. I have no problem with any player briefly hitting his knees (or raising his hands) after scoring to express his spiritual gratitude in his own way (and neither should anyone else). But that’s not the issue. The issue is the NFL’s total lack of judgment.

    After scoring in the Steelers/Bucs game, Antonio Brown spun the ball like a top, danced around it, and then flopped on the ground. The flag wasn’t thrown until he flopped on the ground. Really? So the league doesn’t find all those idiotic showboating dances offensive, but hitting the ground is verbotten? All the me-me-me stuff is okay, but if you hug your teammates–a group celebration–the flag comes out?

    None of that makes sense.

  32. The league is obviously doing quick fast ‘don’t let anyone be offended’ control.

    That said – I seriously doubt the official had any idea it was some sort of Muslim prayer. I’d doubt 99% of the people still watching that garbage game at that time did as well.

    But the NFL doesn’t have to apologize for throwing an excessive celebration flag for a guy that did a nice 5 yard slide on the grass after scoring a meaningless pick 6 at in the 4th quarter of a blowout.

  33. How about we stop penalizing celebrations on scores unless they are really offensive or time wasting.

    ———————–

    Thank you. If Goodell were Commissioner several decades ago, there never would have been an Icky Shuffle. Billy White Shoes Johnson dance? Forget it! Who again was the genius who decided to outlaw these entertaining celebrations that everybody used to love?

  34. bobflat22 says: Sep 30, 2014 10:02 AM

    How was the official supposed to know he was praying and not celebrating

    ———–

    By not being quick to throw the flag.

  35. Allah is the Arabic word for god. An Arab Christian prays to Allah just as an English-speaking Muslim prays to God. The Muslim and Christian deity is the same fictional entity just with different AD narratives. It’s astonishing how little religious people know about their own religions.

  36. The day the NFL started calling non-“football” play penalties is the day the NFL (No Fun League) started going downhill. As much as I think TD dances are stoopid and show the player to be a selfish “Look at Me” player (a la PrimeTime), a flag on a non-football play ruins the game.

    The “dance”, or “celebration”, has absolutely no impact on the game except time. As someone stated above, put a time-limit on it. 5 to 10 seconds. Anything over that is a “Delay of Game” penalty. That way you take out any “judgement” call by officials.

    The NFL needs to take a good long look at some of the stoopid penalties they’ve put in place since the almighty Roger Goodell has taken over because they are ruining the game. NFL is all about entertainment for the fans. A short dance, no matter how STOOPID it is, provides extra entertainment. As well as something for the fans to talk about.

    Roger. STOP ruining the game please!!!

  37. Pray on your own time. This goes for all religious people. You aren’t praying to give thanks to any deity, it is a look at me moment. You can go to the sideline and do it quietly but if you choose to do it in the middle of the field you are saying look at me.

  38. “Whatever the reason for the official’s misunderstanding of Abdullah’s intent, it is good to see the league act quickly to make it clear that the official and not Abdullah was in error.”
    So may we now expect the league to act just as fast as this in calling out the MANY officiating errors that do NOT involve Islam? Yeah, RIGHT!

  39. “Flags are no longer just a “part of the game”, they have become THE game itself – they now dictate the outcome of most NFL games. Whoever gets the benefit of the officials’ capricious heavy-handed interference, comes out on top.”

    There is so much gambling money riding on the games that the NFL is trying to make everything right and the very best anyone can do is to call it as well as they can. The tedium of waiting while plays are examined thru microscopes is doing the sport in.

    I officiated the highest level of NCAA Track and Field. The best official was one that nobody noticed. You know you are not perfect and when there is doubt, you err on the side of the kid. The two foul ups Deb mentioned are egregious and demonstrate incompetence. I am anxious to see the league’s reply. Even the announcers said they were blown calls.

    I think it’s a waste when celebrations appear to be right out of a minstrel show. OTOH, the Lambeau Leap and Graham’s dunk show exuberance and I like them.

    I see college kids acknowledging a Higher Power by briefly pointing skyward and I think that is entirely appropriate.

    We need to remember that they are just games and unimportant in the general scheme of things. IMHO, gambling has ruined the game.

  40. Unsportsmanlike conduct is kind of a joke anyway. If I picked off Tom Brady on MNF and scored I’d moonwalk into a rendition of Fiddler on the Roof Tap, transition into a salsa dance and finish with a double bird to the Patriots side-line and Belichick.

  41. Man, there’s a lot of complaints about a quick prayer in the end zone. Where were these complaints when Tebow was Tebowing? Where were these complaints when Adrian Peterson got down on his knees and raised his arms to his god? Where are these complaints when players get down on a knee and sign out a cross?

    For those of you who say, “so all refs are supposed to know what every faith does to pray?”, here’s an FYI for you; kowtowing is a part of EVERY single religion, including Christianity. It is a sign of deference to your god.

  42. How narcissistic of him to think his god gives a crap about scoring touch downs? This guy prays over a touch down but someone in Syria prays in hopes of not ending up apart of a mass execution or being beheaded. Leave it at home, it’s disrespectful to true believers

  43. A flag should be thrown for every “hey everybody, look at me praying” pose in the end zone. Ya want to pray, do it on the bench.

  44. I’m not a big fan of organized religion, but have no problem with players who give thanks to whatever God they believe in. I believe most do it to give God credit for the blessings in their lives, including success on the football field. I choose to believe many have good intentions and aren’t being pious showboats. I also choose to believe the official who threw the flag didn’t do it because of religious intolerance or bigotry. The player sliding first could have confused the issue. Or, it just didn’t occur to him that it was prayer, since it isn’t exactly common. But you can bet all the officials will be mindful of it in the future.

  45. I’m going to church this Sunday (before the games) and spike a football right in the middle of the sermon and yell “Touchdown!”.
    I’m sure everyone will think it’s great!

  46. I’ve got an idea. Why don’t they just NOT flag people for celebrating, but instead just start the play clock for the extra point. Let the coaches do the yelling and penalizing for extreme celebrations in any form. Once that touchdown is started just get the clock running, it’s that simple. They better hurry it up or get a delay of game on the extra point. Problem solved.

  47. Remember when Barry Sanders got penalized for doing that prayer after scoring a TD?
    Me either, because he was a professional playing a team sport where bringing attention only to himself was not necessary.

  48. I never really had a problem w/ players celebrating. I think it’s just another pointless, dumb rule by the NFL.

  49. For those of you saying that Christians and Muslims have the same god, you should know that Christians believe that Jesus is God. Muslims believe that Jesus was an important prophet, but they are adamantly against the idea that he is God.

  50. Where was the uproar after Chris Johnson got an identical flag when he did this in Dallas after an INT against Dallas?

    Oh, that’s right, he is a Raider, so any amount of improper jurisprudence is allowed.

  51. i enjoy seeing nfl players pray on tv. it pisses a lot of people off. especially the atheists. i enjoy it a lot. hahaha. Flag or no flag, it’s ok. keep it coming.

  52. “although that didn’t make it any odder since the NFL doesn’t have rules governing which deity their players are permitted to offer thanks to after a touchdown.”

    Muslims and Christians pray to the same deity, FYI.

  53. ‘kingcrusher says: Sep 30, 2014 12:39 PM

    I’ve got an idea. Why don’t they just NOT flag people for celebrating, but instead just start the play clock for the extra point. Let the coaches do the yelling and penalizing for extreme celebrations in any form. Once that touchdown is started just get the clock running, it’s that simple. They better hurry it up or get a delay of game on the extra point. Problem solved.’

    Kingcrusher,

    Agreed. It’s a great idea. Probably makes too much sense though which means Goodell would never go for it. Lol.

  54. Looked like the classic “rock star slide” to me. Would it help if we made all celebrations reviewable?

    … the previous celebration is under review.

    … We now go to our rule expert in New York.

    … What we’re looking for here Mike is whether or not the hands touch – completing the process of the prayer.

  55. You’re pissed off because players make a 5 second demonstration of their faith? Then you must be outraged about: the growing numbers of players committing domestic violence; players brandishing firearms; getting arrested for illegal drugs; endangering the public when they drive drunk; a player killing a teammate because he was drunk driving; cheaters using PED’s; Geno Smith flipping off fans; etc. Personally, I’d rather my kids see a player praying than the Ray Rice knockout video.

  56. kingcrusher says:
    Sep 30, 2014 12:39 PM
    I’ve got an idea. Why don’t they just NOT flag people for celebrating, but instead just start the play clock for the extra point. Let the coaches do the yelling and penalizing for extreme celebrations in any form. Once that touchdown is started just get the clock running, it’s that simple. They better hurry it up or get a delay of game on the extra point. Problem solved.
    +-+-+

    Instead of 5yd for delay of the game, it should be no extra point.

    I like the college celebrations, everybody jumping up and down, excited out of their skins.

  57. When you really think about it, The Patriots should have dropped to their knees after that pick six. They clearly needed some supernatural intervention at that point.

  58. Seems like a tough slippery slope because it puts officials in the position of having to judge what is and is not a “religious expression.”

  59. Jesus christ people.

    The official probably didn’t realize it at first when throwing the flag, then it’s unreviewable etc. It was probably just a mistake. Damn, get the panties untwisted people.

  60. This is just so ridiculous. Why doesn’t the NFL just let the ref come out and publicly state why he threw the flag and be done with it? I think it’s a safe assumption that the ref was simply calling a penalty because he saw what he judged to be excessive celebration–a violation of the current rules whether we like it or not. Turns out the ref’s interpretation was incorrect…it happens. I doubt seriously the ref was penalizing some religious gesture or that the ref even considered Abdullah’s actions as religious in nature. He saw a celebration that he deemed in violation of the rules–period. Folks need to quit reading sinister motives into obviously innocent actions. The bigger issue is the ref not knowing the proper application of the rules.

  61. Funny to watch all the same godless haters who criticized Tebow for praying now jump to Abdullah’s defense….

    Personally I have no problem with either. But they don’t pray to the same God.

  62. Let’s all be rational and recognize that the ref did NOT throw a flag for a ‘Muslim prayer’. Again, I’d bet he – or 17 other people still watching that garbage game at that time – knew that it was a Muslim prayer. He mostly like saw the full act – the slide, the to the knees thing and threw the flag. The flag came out after the slide.

    If the ref is guilty of anything, it might be being overzealous in throwing an excessive celebration flag.

    Big deal. It was late in a blowout game. It meant a kickoff being impacted by 15 yards. So, instead of the team that was down by 700 pints giving the ball to a rookie who had never taken a snap in the NFL starting a drive at the 20, they started at the 27. Yippee.

    A ref probably threw a dumb flag. There will be more than a dozen games this weekend. A ref with throw a dumb flag in each of them.

    Move on.

  63. What a joke. He was CLEARLY flagged for sliding on his knees and the flag had NOTHING to do with praying.

    But the SJW crowd will have people believe he was flagged for praying. And the NFL immediately plays along– throwing one of its referees under the bus in the process.

  64. The NFL SHOULD flag such displays, which have no place in a game.

    God does not want your team to win or lose. God is too busy encouraging all of you to try and kill each other to care about an NFL game. Besides, the score was so lopsided that God had already switched channel to “Dancing with the Stars.”

  65. Lets see, you can’t dunk over the goal post, fall to your knees and prey. But, you can climb the end zone wall and jump in a fans lap after a score. Man, the NFL is all Fed up!

  66. im not religious but if these guys want to make a simple prayer after a good play, who are you to say otherwise? they are excessively celebrating, its a simple get on 1-2 knees and it took less that 2 seconds

    if they want to pray they can do so.

  67. hmm …what about when these guys start bowing down to Allah in the middle of a game. Seriously – don’t penalize these guys and watch as your tv audience dwindles.

  68. I thought the personal foul was uncalled for, first and foremost because it was a moment that Brady really embarrassed himself forcing a throw he never should have made into a zone. And H. Abdullah is a former Coug making Brady look like Ryan Leaf. Don’t see Brady make throws this bad often. I thought H. Abbullah’s TD celebration was tame compared to spiking the ball.

    I’m all in favor of bringing the Billy White Shoes/Redskins Fun Bunch days and let the players do their own TD celebrations without being penalized.

  69. Wrong.

    The referees should not have to interpret and decide what is deemed a religious prayer or celebration. Oh, should the NFL train them
    in what all the common religious prayer techniques are? If Gordon believes in the weed fairy should it be okay to puff a spliff In the end zone because it’s his religious position? NOPE. Flag Abdullah, flag tebow if he ever gets a chance to do it again. Spike the ball and move on.

  70. Prayer is for church, or in your mind between you and your god. When you feel you need to make a spectacle of yourself on national TV, or slow up a team sport to honor your individual beliefs, you should be penalized, regardless of the religion….

  71. GIMME A BREAK!!

    Everybody needs to R-E-L-A-X.

    The dude did a full-on soccer slide (very weak, for the NFL) IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING MUSLIM!!

    ITS AGAINST THE RULES! Next time the dude should drop and bow to Mecca immediately. There will be no flags.

    GET A GRIP PEOPLE…..JEEZ!!

  72. Looks to me that the official threw the flag thinking he was seeing a celebration and it turned put to be a prayer instead. I have no problem with a guy praying. Nor would I have a problem with the NFL making prayerful demonstrations in the end zone against the rules. No skin off my nose either way. The call could simply have been overturned on the spot if the official found out the situation. Did he? If so, they just should have ruled “no flag” on the play. Reviewable or not. We see them “pick up the flag” any number of times during the season. If he wasn’t aware of the situation before it was too late, well, hey, he made a mistake. It’s still just a football game. I doubt many people actually think the flag was an anti-Muslim gesture.

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