NFL issues apology after player is penalized for Muslim prayer

The league faced backlash after Kansas City’s Husain Abdullah was penalized for religious expression during Monday night’s game against the New England Patriots.

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The NFL apologized Tuesday after Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for praying in the end zone during Monday night’s game.

Abdullah, a devout Muslim, slid to his knees after running back an interception for a touchdown.

He was in a position called Sajdah, which means “prostration to God” in Arabic. The position involves having the forehead, nose, hands, knees, and toes touching the ground. He received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his action.

Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued this statement Tuesday morning:

To prevent the appearance of a double standard, we urge league officials to clarify the policy on prayer and recognize that the official made a mistake in this case.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook reads, in part: “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.”

This rule does not apply to religious expression, though. NFL spokesman Michael Signora provided clarification in a tweet Tuesday:

Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.

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