City of Brass

As a (very) recent convert to the joy of American Football, I am fascinated by the penalty issued to Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Hussein Abdullah for performing a sajda (prayer prostration) of thanks after an epic 39-yard pick-six on Patriots’ QB Tom Brady. Public prayers by Christian players such as Tim Tebow have been celebrated, but despite the large number of Muslim players in the NFL, there still isn’t enough awareness on the part of referees. Abdullah’s sajda was flagged as “unsportsmanlike conduct, going to the ground” and Kansas City was penalized 15 yards.

Here’s the relevant section from the NFL rules:

Section 3 Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Article 1 There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the
generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:
(d) Individual players involved in prolonged or excessive celebrations. Players are prohibited from
engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.

However, as former referee and rules expert Mike Pereira noted on Twitter last year, players are not penalized for going to the ground to give praise after a TD:

You can see from the video that Abdullah’s prayer was indeed a personal praise moment and not performed with intention to taunt.

Hussein and his brother Hamza Abdullah are devout Muslims who took the year off in 2012 from the NFL to perform the Hajj – and were featured in a documentary from ESPN called “outside the line” about their pilgrimage.

Abdullah himself did not take offense at being penalized –

And the NFL officials also admitted that the penalty call was an error this morning:

so, all’s well that ends well.

Overall, this issue demonstrates the need for more awareness about Islam, and is an honest case of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. The benefit of this is that it helps to raise that awareness, and the longer term benefit of that is surely worth 15 yards. It’s not like that penalty made any difference as far as the Patriots were concerned!

UPDATE: Stephen Colbert has a hilarious take on the issue, as usual. Best line – “How can muslims even play football if they’re not allowed to touch the pigskin? We’re gonna have to switch to halal balls!” LOL

Also, this gem fwded me via chat – which i wish i could take credit for:

“after further review, it has been determined that the ball carrier was not facing Mecca at the time of his celebration, therefore the penalty stands.”

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