Muslim Chiefs Player Was Penalized After Kneeling To Pray In The End Zone

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Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was handed what just may be the most controversial penalty of the season.

After sliding into a kneel for Muslim prayer in the end zone, the six-year veteran was cited for unsportsmanlike conduct, which tacked 15 yards onto the Chiefs’ ensuing kickoff.

The episode began once Abdullah intercepted a pass from Tom Brady during the Chiefs thrashing of the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football:

The safety then returned the pick for a touchdown, before sliding to his knees.

Abdullah, who did not partake in the 2012 NFL season in order to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, quickly turned his slide in the end zone into a customary Muslim prayer.

The referee’s exact explanation for the penalty given was as follows:

Unsportsmanlike conduct, going to the ground on the knees, automatic 15 yards. That penalty will be enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

While the NFL rulebook does prohibit players from “celebrating” on their knees, as Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Kaduk pointed out that, former league ref and now Fox Sports officiating expert, Mike Pereira, once said he would never give a player a penalty for praying because he “didn’t want to get struck by lightning.”

Pereira also tweeted last year that players are exempt from being flagged for prayers.

Indeed, players like Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings and Tim Tebow have been allowed to kneel in prayer after a touchdown in the past, and their examples hint at an understanding on the part of league referees.

Now that Abdullah, a Muslim player, has been flagged, the penalty seems to have opened up the door for people who share in Abdullah’s faith to feel a sense of bias against them.

Abdullah, for his part, said he thought he was penalized for the way he went into the prayer.

It remains to be seen whether the NFL will follow up the penalty with a fine. Abdullah’s agent, though, has already hinted that he would react to any fine with legal action.

[Update: Looks like that fine won’t be coming anytime soon, with an NFL spokesperson telling ESPN that the referee in charge of Monday night’s game was wrong in penalizing Abdullah.]

H/T: Yahoo!, Photo Courtesy: Twitter

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