Husain Abdullah and the NFL’s religious regulations

Keegan Williams

Keegan Williams
Keegan Williams

It’s a leisurely Sunday afternoon. You turn on the TV to watch some athletic men toss around a football. While most of it is about the game, it’s undeniable that you will be exposed to the religious affiliations of select players.

What a lovely side note the NFL provides. Just as a player scores a touchdown, you also get to find out if they believe in heaven and hell, as they go down to the ground to praise the Christian God.


But wait, a challenger appears. Husain Abdullah, safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, scored a touchdown on Sept. 29 from an interception return thrown by Tom Brady. Abdullah immediately slid to his knees and prayed to Allah in celebration. Non-Christian prayer? Scandalous!

The referees threw a flag at Abdullah, giving a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Chiefs played out the game, but the days that followed showed that those representing the NFL acted less like professionals working for a multi-million dollar organization and more like disagreeing parents, saying to Abdullah and the masses, “I’m right, you’re wrong. End of story.”

Ready for the parental bickering?

The next day, the NFL stated that the penalty against Abdullah was incorrect. According to a statement issued by NFL spokesman Michael Signora, “… 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.”

Problem solved. Islamic displays are totally cool on the field.

Hold up, parent number one, I’m confused. Parent number two, the NFL rulebook, says nothing about religion. Instead, it states, “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.”

Then again, parent number one issued an official statement after the game. They must be right.

Stop everything, parents one and two – parent number three, the NFL Referees Association, said that this was the correct call on Oct. 3.

Alright, parents one, two and three: I don’t understand if this display was correct or incorrect, but what about all of those other religious (Christian) players? Tim Tebow consistently prayed to his Christian God during his games. Actually, he kind of made his image, and a popular trend, out of it.


Tebow wasn’t the only one. Multiple NFL players have gotten down on one knee to praise the Christian God during games (James Jones formerly of the Green Bay Packers, Nate Washington of the Tennessee Titans and Domenik Hixon of the New York Giants, to name a few), with no penalty.

Maybe the distinction lies in the amount of legs touching the ground. Knelt on one knee praising the Christian God? A triumphant moment. Two knees? Preposterous.

NFL parents one, two and three provide an inconsistent commentary, “I’m right,” regarding religious practices during an NFL game. Abdullah ended up siding with parent three, agreeing that it was his two knee slide into the praying position that caused the penalty, not his religious display.

These three disagreeing parents need to get together and decide on one concrete rule to tell their children, comprised of NFL teams and players, rather than arguing back and forth with conflicting ideas that are all considered “correct.”

Bottom line: the NFL needs to form concrete boundaries regarding religious displays. Beyond religion, let’s just find out a solid answer regarding proper celebration.

Whether that means allowing any religious celebrations on the field, or getting rid of them entirely, the NFL needs to figure it out, before they send more harmful implications about non-Christian religious practices to their massive American audience.

Collegian Columnist Keegan Williams can be reached at or on Twitter @keeganmw.