Video: Kansas City Chiefs Abdullah penalized for being Muslim
By Ray Hanania
You can jump around after you make a touch down. You can do the chicken dance wide-knee-walk after you make a touch down. You can even run with the football high in the air in one hand yelling and screaming after you make a touchdown. You can even get down on one knee, make the sign of the cross in a Christian demonstration of your faith in God.
But according to the NFL, you can’t pray “like a Muslim.” That’s the message given when the NFL punished a Muslim football player who got down on his knees and prayed in gratitude for his goal.
Husain Ibn Muhammed Abdullah, a Muslim American football safety who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs in the National Football League, scored a touchdown after intercepting a pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Abdullah, who previously played for the Minnesota Vikings and was drafted from Washington State University in 2008, ran the ball back 39 yards in the fourth quarter of Chief’s 41-14 rout of the Patriots.
It was a cute coincidence, too, since Abdullah’s team number is 39, also. A great moment to celebrate.
Upon reaching the end zone for the touchdown, Abdullah, a practicing Muslim, slid down onto his knees. He bent his head down to the ground touching his forehead to the end zone turf and prayed. The way Muslims pray. It was just a moment. And it was no different than when Christian football players pause to make the Sign of the Cross, or to clasp their hands in prayer, the way Christians pray.
But Abdullah was immediately punished and flagged for “unsportsmanlike conduct” by the NFL’s referees. The Chiefs were immediately penalized 15 yards and had to re-do the play. The NFL referee’s call was specifically for “unsportsmanlike conduct; going to the ground.”
Apparently the NFL has a rule to prevent players from making excessive fools of themselves by doing stupid things to celebrate a touchdown or achievement.
It’s called Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook. That rule prohibits “Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground. A celebration or demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate or demonstrate after a warning from an official.”
I am not sure a prayer counts as an excessive celebration. Abdullah’s “prayer” took less than 3 seconds. Maybe 4 seconds as he knelt down in his red Chief’s uniform to bow his head to the ground.
It was something Abdullah said he planned to do, and I think that is the real issue. The fact that he is Muslim and wears it on his uniform bothers many Americans who hate Muslims.
The Muslim American Football safetyhad told a reporter for the Kansas City Star, Tod Palmer, that he had made a promise to himself that he’d show his respect if he ever scored a touchdown. “If I get a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the End Zone,” he said.
The NFL is claiming that Abdullah was not penalized for praying as a Muslim, but for “sliding” on both knees. (And the penalty was later revoked after much protest.)
Right away, sports writers made comparisons to Tim Tebow, the Christian football player who frequently prays to God when he makes a touchdown. He’s never penalized. He is admired.
The news media viewed Tim Tebow being Christian was a boring story, basically “keep it to yourself.” There is a bias against overly religious Christians, too. But Tebow was never penalized for it like Abdullah. The comparison was only made by Christian activists who are angry that sportswriters celebrate NFL players and athletes who are Gay but frown on Christian players. In Abdullah’s case, though, the Tebow Factor went one step further. Click here to read a good analysis of the Tebow-Christian controversy.
Abdullah’s mistake may have been telling the media he planned to pray to “Allah” when he scored, lighting the fuse on the growing anti-Muslim racism that consumes many Americans. Yes, many American are anti-Muslim. They hate Muslims. And you don’t have to be Muslim to be hated. He also put a spotlight on himself when he missed the 2012 season to travel, along with his brother, former NFL safety Hamza Abdullah, to visit Mecca during the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage. And his interview in which he said that Faith comes first, must have upset many Americans consumed with anti-Muslim hatred. (Read story.)
OH MY GOD. A MUSLIM IN FOOTBALL!
Recently on my Facebook Page, several of my 4,107 “Friends” openly said they “Hate” Muslims when I posted and criticized a story that reported that Michelle Obama was not the real mother of Sasha and Malia.
I know. You are pausing and asking yourself, what the heck does that have to do with being Muslim? Well, it’s a new mix of anti-Black racism and anti-Muslim hatred. And typical American ignorance. Americans are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world, I always like to explain. Many Americans “hate” that I defend Muslims and think I am Muslim. So they target me and hate me, too. Even though I am Christian and my Mother wa sborn iN Bethlehem. When I wrote that in response to a Muslim hater, the writer said, “Bethlehem isn’t a Christian city. It is a Muslim city. It has nothing to do with Christianity. I told you some Americans are stupid!
It’s not ironic. It’s not unintentional. The anti-Muslim hatred that dominates America made the Abdullah penalty inevitable. It was going to happen.
Abdullah is African American Muslim. Of the 7 million Muslims in America, the largest majority are African American. Arabs make up only about 22 percent of the nation’s Muslims. Just FYI — there are 4.5 million Arabs in America, a number built through painstaking extrapolation and estimations because the U.S. Census refuses to count Arabs and Muslims. Of that number, 60 percent or more than 3 million Arabs are actually Christian. Yes, Christian Arabs are the largest majority of Arabs in America.
The NFL did not immediately release a statement on the penalty. They’re like many other Americans and only deal with issues of unfairness when enough people scream. Even if every Muslim and Christian Arab in America screamed, that’s less than 11 million people in a nation of 300 million.
The NFL should immediately apologize for the call and the referee or referees who made the call should be penalized instead.
It’s not just about religious freedom or fairness since Jews and Christian football players who Thank God for their success are not penalized. It’s about bigotry that insinuates itself into the core of America, corrupting its essence as the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”
Be Brave America. Do the right thing. Tell Muslim haters that they are not just “Muslim Haters” at all. They are just haters. And this country doesn’t want haters in its ranks.
Enough with the Muslim Haters, the racism in America and the ugliness that tarnishes America’s great history.
Insha-Allah — God Willing, as Muslims would say.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)