A Muslim player who was penalized after dropping to his knees and bowing in prayer following an interception returned for a touchdown on Monday night should not have been flagged, the NFL said Tuesday.
Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs slid to the turf in the end zone and made the brief gesture of his faith during the Chiefs' 41-14 victory over the New England Patriots. He received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.(Story continues below.)
ESPN noted that according to Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d), "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground."
But in a tweet Tuesday morning, the league clarified its position.
Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) September 30, 2014
Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that the group is satisfied with the league's quick response. Hooper earlier had urged the NFL to clarify its stance on prayer ''to prevent the appearance of a double standard." Hooper was referring to the many Christian players who drop to a knee in prayer to celebrate a touchdown, including former NFLer Tim Tebow.
The apparent discrepancy set off a dispute on social media.
Abdullah, who left football for a year to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, told the Kansas City Star afterward that he thought the referees flagged him over unsportsmanlike conduct for the slide, not prostrating. It was a sentiment echoed by his coach, Andy Reid.
Around the time the NFL's ruling was made public, Abdullah took to Instagram, writing, "'Subhana Rabbial-'Ala' (Glory be to my Lord The Most High)" and posting the following photo: