During last Tuesday’s game against the Patriots, Muslim Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for fifteen yards of unsportsmanlike behavior as he slid into the end zone and performed sajdah (the Islamic term for prostration to God). This has led to some controversy within the media because of other NFL players (notably Tim Tebow) who have also celebrated touchdowns with religiously significant acts. The key difference between them and Abdullah are the faiths with which they identify.
At the same time, there has been widespread misunderstanding about what Abdullah was actually penalized for. The NFL openly criticized the officials who penalized Abdullah because the NFL spokesperson has stated that the penalty was for kneeling down in prayer. However, the NFL Referee Association and Abdullah himself have agreed that he was penalized for sliding into the end zone. This begs the question as to why there is a disparity between the call of the NFL and the referee association.
Hussain Abdullah was not penalized for expressing his faith on the field but the NFL seems to want to make real sure that we all know they stand with him anyway, regardless of all the other glaring issues of player misconduct within the league. The media is over-sensationalizing what happened by creating controversy where there really isn’t any. The NFL very much wants to appear politically correct, and does not want to impose on religious rights by not allowing religious celebrations on the field. However, every other type of celebration is banned and many argue that all religious celebrations should be, as well. In fact, the NFL’s defense of Abdullah’s expression of faith almost seems like they are overcompensating for something, especially after the consensus between the Referee Association and Abdullah that the penalty was given for sliding into the end zone.
The Abdullah incident has just been one of many recent NFL controversies, all of which have been a result of the NFL’s inconsistent punishment system for players. The NFL has made headlines in the past couple of weeks regarding the treatment of their players, and how there is a lack of consistency in how players who violate game rules and domestic laws are treated. There has been a string of NFL players who have all been found to be abusive and violent towards their significant others or children. These include Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Dwyer, and a few others.
The NFL officially reprimanded these players and some were suspended or cut from their team. However, those in power within the NFL, like team owners or unscrupulous commissioner Roger Goodell, try to reduce the sentences and punishments on these players so as to not disrupt the way their team plays. This just displays an extremely disturbing mindset of those in administrative power within the NFL; they seem to believe that owning a team or being Commissioner places them above proper moral and ethical conduct.
The Abdullah incident was a mass media misreporting that seeks to draw attention away from the current controversies in the NFL where other players are publicly reprimanded but then wealthy team owners and the commissioner work behind the scenes to excuse their domestic violence. Because these people seem to think that their money excuses them from the consequences of their actions, the NFL needs to do a better job of holding their employees, no matter what their ranking is, accountable.