The NFL sparked yet more outrage Monday after appearing to penalize Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah, a devout Muslim, for kneeling on the ground in the end zone to praise God after scoring the second touchdown of his career.
This post-TD reaction was deemed unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive celebration and resulted in a 15-yard penalty:
The reaction from Abdullah’s brother and agent indicated this was indeed a moment of prayer:
Which, according to former VP of Officiating at the NFL Mike Pereira in a 2013 tweet, is not the intent of the rule against going to the ground:
In a 2009 interview, Pereira said that he didn’t want to penalize prayer for fear of getting “struck by lightning.”
Fans took to Twitter to denounce the call, which has incited the creation of various memes showing what prayer is deemed acceptable and what is penalized:
But Abdullah himself said it was likely his slide across the end zone that had provoked the penalty call, and not his impromptu prayer. “I got a little too excited,” he told local media. “The slide before it, I’m pretty sure that did it.”
The Chiefs ended up beating the Patriots 41-14.