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.