Fort Meyers senior Sam Turner reached the end zone for his first career touchdown. Teammates buzzed with excitement, but not everyone was supportive after the 16-year-old fell to one knee and thanks God. When he returned to his feet, a yellow flag was called along with 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Turner said he was confused at first he told News-Press.com, and even more surprised when he was told he was bringing to much attention to himself.
I was like, ‘Are you seriously flagging me right now? What did I do wrong? Eventually the ref came up and talked to me and said I was trying to bring attention to myself and I was trying to explain to him that that wasn’t the case at all. I wasn’t trying to bring attention to myself I was just trying to thank God.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association explained that Turner was not flagged for praying, it was for breaking Rule 9-5, and Article 1 c of the association’s rule book. It states that there are penalties for any prolonged act where the “player attempts to focus attention on himself.”
Spokes person for the FHSAA supported the referee’s call was a judgment call, not because the player prayed.
Turner’s team ended up upending their rivals 49-0 and continued to support their teammate despite the call.
“My teammates are giving my tons of support,” he said. They all know I'm strong believer, even though it cost us 15 yards. He also acknowledged it might have been a little tougher if the penalty had cost them the game.”