Chiefs Safety Husain Abdullah Penalized For End Zone Muslim Prayer?

Husain Abdullah

Kansas City Chiefs Safety Husain Abdullah was charged with an excessive celebration penalty after taking a position of prayer after scouring a touchdown off an interception in last night’s Chiefs routing of the Patriots, and some people are raising red flags:

Husain Abdullah is a devout Muslim. He’s also a safety for the Chiefs, and he made a promise to himself if he ever did find himself in the end zone.

“If I get a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone,” Abdullah said.

Early in the fourth quarter, Abdullah dropped deep in a zone coverage, read Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s eyes and broke hard, intercepting his pass.

“It’s a basic crossing route that we’ve probably walked through since training camp,” Abdullah said. “It was one of those things where he never saw me. He was looking at his receiver and I stole it.”

Abdullah then dashed 39 yards to the end zone, slid on his knees and bowed in prayer.

His celebration drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Whether it was for the religious part of his celebration is unclear.

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

There are exceptions made for religious expressions, such as Tim Tebow’s prayer while kneeling. But Abdullah may have broken the rule by sliding with both knees into the prayer.

“For me, I just got a little too excited,” Abdullah said. “I think it was for the slide.”

Game officials didn’t say anything to Abdullah after the play, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid did when Abdullah came to the sideline.

“He said, ‘You can’t slide,'” Abdullah said.

Although Reid isn’t sure that should be the case.

“When you go to Mecca, you should be able to slide wherever you want,” Reid said after the game. “We’ve got two priests in here. They’d probably vouch for me.”

On some level, I’m not sure whether it matters that the cause for the penalty was the prostate position or the slide that got him there. Personally, I’ve thought that the league’s penalty’s for end zone celebrations have been ridiculous and excessive for quite some time and this is perhaps the best demonstration of that. However, if it was the Muslim prayer position that led to the penalties then the NFL would have to explain why players who engage in Christian prayer under similar circumstances have not been penalized.

Update: The NFL’s Vice President for Communications said on Twitter this morning that Abdullah should not have been penalized:

As it turned out, of course, the penalty had no real impact on the game in any case.

FILED UNDER: Religion, Sports, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    See what happens when you let liberals get in control? First, a man gets blamed for his fiancee’s running her face into his fist, and now we have this travesty of separation of church and the NFL! What’s next? Abortions in the huddle?

  2. Peter says:

    What would have been the appropriate remedy if the improper penalty HAD affected the game’s outcome? I would favor an immediate do-over of the game from that point, but that would be difficult to accomplish, reassembling the teams on a few hours’ notice, arranging for officials and other staff, getting access to the field, and so on. Still, it could be done.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    The NFL can’t seem to stop digging.

  4. James Pearce says:

    Personally, I’ve thought that the league’s penalty’s for end zone celebrations have been ridiculous and excessive for quite some time and this is perhaps the best demonstration of that.

    I agree. It’s absurd to pay men millions of dollars for accomplishing this very act, then not to allow a celebration. Take all the glory out of it and what’s left?

  5. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    They never flagged the Tebowing.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    From watching the video:

    a. It is not obviously “Muslim prayer,” he slid into a prostrate position, which is not unique to Islam, nor did it contain any of the formalities of the Salat.

    b. It is not clear that the ref could see all of what was happening from his angle back at the line of scrimmage; he may have even been looking away towards the end of the slide and missed the so-called prayer.

    I cannot understand why a slide is problematic, if it’s not accompanied with self-aggrandizing gestures to the crowd or to himself. IOW, a slide with head and arms up could be taunting, but sliding into a prostrate position is pretty much the opposite of taunting, religious connotations or not.

  7. mike says:

    What I’ve always found ridiculous and excessive are some of the celebrators themselves. No problem with spontaneous reactions, but I’d rather they flag all these narcissists performing their coreographed routines. It’s a team game, enough of the “look at me” stuff. Give me Barry Sanders over Terrell Owens any day.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    The SCOTUS, in the Hobby Lobby and Town of Greece decisions, has made it clear that Christianity is THE official religion of these United States.
    One would assume that applies to sports leagues that enjoy favorable tax status as well.
    Therefore; Tim Tebow is OK…radical jihadist Muslims are not.

  9. Nikki says:

    The NFL should have stopped all religious expression decades ago. There is no need for it. If the players want to express their gratitude to their god, let them do it in the locker room.

    This is beyond ridiculous.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:


    The NFL should have stopped all religious expression decades ago. There is no need for it. If the players want to express their gratitude to their god, let them do it in the locker room.

    Well there is no need for the mascots, the cheerleaders, concessions, branded gear, or really team colors. In fact, as a pure basis of need, there is not a need for football. While I, personally, don’t publicly celebrate my religious beliefs I don’t really see how this has hurt or offended anyone.

    I think the argument you meant was “I don’t like religious celebrations so I believe they should all stop.” That’s a far cry from need.

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Tim Tebow prayed before the game and from the sideline during the game, which wasn’t subject to the celebration rules.

  12. DA says:

    It’s a shame, and fairly absurd, to put the refs in the position of trying to determine what is or is not religious expression.

  13. Tyrell says:

    @James Pearce: I remember football back in the ’60’s. There was none of this ridiculous “celebrating” that is overdone: jumping, dunking the football, dancing, gyrating, and all kinds of other self gratification nonsense. The coaches then would not have allowed it, and the players had better judgment. That was football’s golden era. I stopped following football long ago when players put themselves above the team.

  14. @PD Shaw:

    Tim Tebow prayed before the game and from the sideline during the game, which wasn’t subject to the celebration rules.

    That’s the Christianist spin right now, even though 30 seconds of googling produces numerous photos of Tebow doing his thing in the endzone.

  15. Trumwill says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Is that after a touchdown?

    I actually thought he did do his thing in the endzone, but what I get when I google “tebow kneel touchdown” I don’t get anything close to definitive. In most of them, his helmet is off. So maybe he didn’t?

    Not that it particularly matters. It didn’t affect the outcome and the NFL has stated that going down in prayer in the endzone (to whatever god) is okay and that the penalty shouldn’t have been called.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Is that before the game though? There is a non-official walking on the playing field behind him.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Tebow touchdown celebration photo

    Either ban anything that has religious overtones, or allow it and apply the same standard for everyone. Yet another bonehead move for the tone deaf NFL.

  18. Trumwill says:

    @anjin-san: Not the NFL. A ref. One that probably didn’t quite realize what was going on.

  19. PD Shaw says:

    That is a picture of Tebow praying after the game is over. “Tebow is an outspoken Christian, and was notorious for his kneeled prayers before and after each game.” Link.

  20. Trumwill says:

    @PD Shaw: That link is just a link to the picture, not the words in quotes.

    Anyway, does anybody have a video? Presumably, they should be out there.

  21. More photos of Christian NFL Players kneeling in endzone after a touchdown:

    NFL Says Kansas City Chiefs Player Shouldn’t Have Been Penalized for Prayer

    And of course PD could admit he was mistaken, but no, he’s going to start splitting progressively smaller hairs so he can stubbornly insist this case is completely different.

  22. PD Shaw says:

    @Trumwill: The rules don’t appear to mention the “prayer” exception, though what is “prolonged or excessive celebration” might be subject to interpretation. I don’t think either of these guys is celebrating in my book, at least in terms of what I think the rule is concerned with, i.e. taunting.

    On looking over the video again, I’m less certain that the referee who threw the flag was back at the line of scrimmage. He may be the line judge that was originally tasked to the line of scrimmage, but when there was an interception, his role switched to the backfield and he is at the top of the picture above. He may not be traditionally tasked with making this call or trained for it. (I’m not sure I buy that though; turnovers are not that uncommon)

  23. PD Shaw says:

    @Trumwill: Oops, here’s Link.

  24. Trumwill says:

    The Tebow one is ambiguous, but there are definitely some unambiguous ones there.

  25. Trumwill says:

    Having watched a a video of the Tebow case, that one doesn’t count.

    So it looks like while Christian players have done it (and not been penalized), it’s still not clear that Tebow himself has.

  26. PD Shaw says:

    I won’t claim that nobody has ever prayed on a football field. But the rule against celebrating requires it to be during the time of game and on the field of play (but not near one’s own bench, one can celebrate there). And Tebow was known for praying before and after games. Wikipedia says so on the summary of the AFC WildCard Playoff game at issue.

  27. Trumwill says:

    @PD Shaw: Per the above video, it’s not really comparable. The game is over. Not only that, I think he’s praying in the other endzone.

  28. Tillman says:

    Technically speaking, Muslims aren’t supposed to pray in unclean areas according to the Qu’ran, and I imagine a football field doesn’t count as clean. Then again, technically speaking, Christians aren’t supposed to pray brazenly in front of others.

    And finally, technically speaking, wasn’t this over what the ref thought was a Springsteenesque power slide? Doesn’t really reach the level of domestic abuse, which is the kind of scandal I’ve come to expect from the NFL.

  29. al-Ameda says:

    The NFL is so 2013 now. The league has jumped the shark.

    Bring on the NBA – a league that has no pretense to exceptionalism, moral high ground, or perfection.

  30. Tyrell says:

    All of this rockin’ & rollin’ , jivin’ & divin’, stylin’ & profilin’, slippin’ & slidin’, shakin’ & bakin’, rompin’ & stompin’ has no place on the football fields. I am not sure when, but I think a lot of this started with the use of certain kinds of music in the locker rooms and stadiums: hip-hop, and rap. It has turned pro football into a joke. A coach should fine and suspend a player for this type of self gratification trash.

  31. Tony W says:

    @Tyrell: We’ll all just get off your lawn now Tyrell….