Last night, during the Kansas City Chiefs’ thrashing of the New England Patriots, Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. After scoring, Abdullah, a devout Mulsim, slid on the end zone and dropped to his hands and knees to pray. He was then flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The one huge problem with the flag? There’s a special exception for religious expression in the NFL’s rule on what counts as unsportsmanlike conduct in regards to touchdown celebrations.
According to Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d), “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,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.
Abdullah stated after the game that he thought he was flagged for sliding before going into his prayer. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who disagreed with the flag, thought the same.
“When you go to Mecca,” he said, referring to the end zone, “you should have the privilege to slide anywhere you want to slide. We have two priests in here. I think they will vouch for me.”
Good on the NFL for acknowledging their mistake on this one. It was pretty clear what Abdullah was doing, and the referee should have recognized his gesture as a religious one, so hopefully this won’t happen again.