I have to admit, as a New England Patriot-Hater, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them get dismantled by the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night Football. The home team won by a score of 41-14. During that game in the fourth quarter, Chief safety Husain Abdullah made a remarkable interception and ran it back 39-yards for a Pick-Six.
Abdullah, a 29-year old devout Muslim, celebrated his touchdown by sliding on his knees and bowing in prayer. The officials slapped him with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for his approximate five seconds of prayer time. I was irate about the penalty because looking at the name on the back of the jersey I knew what the player was doing in the end zone, but I guess all of us are not astute when it comes to other people’s faith practices.
The game officials explained to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid that Abdullah was not penalized for the prayer, but for the slide before the faith act. Even Husain Abdullah humbly admitted after the game that he shouldn’t have slid to his knees.
“For me, I just got a little too excited,” Abdullah said. “I think it was for the slide.”
Even though NFL spokesman Michael Signora stated that the flag was an error on the game officials and that Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown, the NFL Referees Association responded Thursday with a news release explaining the penalty was graded as correct by the league.
The NFLRA said Abdullah was penalized for sliding into the end zone on his knees, and the officials who made the call were given correct grades by the officiating department.
“Both the officials and the player involved in the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty were not confused as to why a flag was thrown. The player was flagged, correctly, for the slide on his knees in the end zone, not for going to the ground in a prayerful gesture,” said retired referee and former NFLRA president Scott Green in the release. “On field officials are aware of the prayer provision and respect the right of players of all faiths to express themselves.”
Signora stuck by that statement he made on Tuesday, but on Thursday he added that an official would not be “downgraded” on a close call.
“As part of evaluating the performance of our game officials, the officiating supervisors recognize that for an incorrect call on a close judgment play the official may have used appropriate reasoning. On such a call, the official is not downgraded,” he said.
Signora added, “With regard to Husain Abdullah, a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression should not be penalized. While he did slide immediately before beginning his prayer, this was not a correct call and the play should not have resulted in a penalty.”
After everything is said and done, I believe that we should move on from the Abdullah prayer penalty. The Chiefs didn’t lose the game because of this call (yeah), officials were not downgraded because they made the correct call, and as of right now, Abdullah has not been fined because of the act. All I ask is that the NFL needs to sit down and make some of these rules a little bit clearer or get rid of them. There is so much “gray area” with the rules for what you can and cannot do. It has gotten to a point where the players, fans, coaches and officials don’t know which way is up.
Can we just go back to playing football and have a little fun? Please?