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When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.
But Abdullah, a devout Muslim, found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL. Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in the end zone.
A strict reading of the rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although Tebow was allowed to kneel. The penalty comes under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook, which states that “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground” as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations. Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice-president of officiating and now a Fox Sports commentator, pointed out that there is an exception to the rule: going to the ground in prayer.
But is this a little too late? I know that the NFL has back tracked and apologized, but will this still upset many in the Muslim community?