The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the National Football League needs to “clarify” its prayer policy after Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized Monday night for kneeling in the end zone — “sajdah.”
Abdullah, an observant Muslim, had just received completed a 39-yard interception return versus the New England Patriots.
He was penalized for 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct under the NFL’s 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 today, according to ESPN.
Abdullah told the Kansas City Star that he thought he was penalized for sliding on his knees. “I just got a little too excited,” he said. The safety added that his coach agreed and chided him for sliding.
This morning, Abdullah tweeted an Instagram of himself prostrated in prayer with the words, “‘Subhana Rabbial-‘Ala’ (Glory be to my Lord The Most High).”
CAIR noted the NFL rule, but said singled out the exception for religious expressions, “such as Tim Tebow’s prayer while kneeling.”
After Tebow, as a college player, wrote Bible scriptures on his eye black, the NCAA banned players from writing anything under their eyes. In the NFL, “Tebowing” became a verb for when the quarterback took a knee in prayer on the field.
“To prevent the appearance of a double standard, we urge league officials to clarify the policy on prayer and recognize that the official made a mistake in this case,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper urged the NFL in a statement.