According to the NFL, officials aren’t supposed to flag players who go to the ground for religious reasons.
With 10:34 remaining in the fourth quarter of Kansas City’s game against the New England Patriots, Abdullah intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown that put Kansas City up 41-7 in a game it eventually won 41-14.
After crossing the goal line, Abdullah slid on his knees and then bent his head to the ground in a traditional Muslim prayer after his slide had stopped, at which point he was penalized.
While NFL rules prohibit celebrations that occur on the ground, officials have made an exception for Christian prayer celebrations, seemingly necessitating a similar exception for Muslim prayer celebrations.
According to the Associated Press, Abdullah said after the game that he thought he was penalized for his slide and not going to the ground in prayer.
After the penalty, CJ LaBoy, Abdullah’s agent, said on Twitter “there’s going to be some problems” if Abdullah receives a fine from the NFL for his celebration.
Abdullah is known within the NFL as a devout Muslim, along with older brother Hamzy Abduallah, a former NFL safety.
Husain Abdullah took the 2012 season off in order to make Hajj, the traditional Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, joined by Hamzy. He said after the trip that the pair “had to” make the trip despite potentially sacrificing their NFL futures because of its importance to their faith.
Abdullah also fasts during Ramadan, which often falls during training camp, meaning he must go without food and water during the daytime while working around practices.
The touchdown against the Patriots was the second of Abdullah’s career.