The NFL said Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah, a devout Muslim, shouldn’t have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after kneeling in prayer post-touchdown during Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots.
Abdullah intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth quarter and ran 39 yards before sliding into the end zone on his knees and bowing in prayer. Here’s the play:
And here’s the prayer, via SBNation:
The Chiefs safety later said he thought he was penalized for sliding to his knees in celebration, according to the Kansas City Star. Chiefs coach Andy Reid agreed, even if he didn’t think the official necessarily made a good call.
“When you go to Mecca, you should be able to slide wherever you want,” Reid said after the game, as quoted by the Kansas City Star.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Tuesday that Abdullah shouldn’t have been penalized at all.
“Husain Abdullah should not have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown,” Signora said in a statement emailed to TPM. “Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states ‘players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.’ However, 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.”
The Chiefs safety is a devout Muslim and sat out the 2013 NFL season to make pilgrimage to Mecca.
The flag for Abdullah’s post-touchdown prayer stands in stark contrast to the way former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was celebrated for his habit of taking a knee in prayer during games.
This post has been updated.