When sports administrators start justifying decisions that cause a public outcry you know they are in trouble.
This was very much the case in the NFL in America.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night. After scoring he did what many other NFL players do to celebrate, he paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.
There was however a difference to the much witnessed player crossing himself or putting his hands together in prayer, you see Abdullah is a devout Muslim, and he knelt down and bowed down in the end zone. He then found that his religious display saw him penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. All because he slid to the ground, and knelt in the end zone.
The NFL to be fair were quick to come out and say “Abdullah should not have been penalized,” Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. “Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”
The rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although many players including Tim Tebow have been allowed to kneel. The penalty Abdullah received came 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.” This was inserted as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations.
Apparently there is an exception to the rule and that is going to ground in prayer. However the technical issue was according to many that Abdullah sliding into position to give thanks.
There was talk that Abdullah may be fined for his gesture, but the backlash of public opinion and the reaction on social media will probably see the NFL send a memo to all its officials to let such issues slide!