Penalized for Praying

by Project Censored

It’s national television — the leather in your hand, you juke left, right, spin move, touchdown! A feeling of exhilaration consumes you and all you want to do is celebrate. You can do a simple spike of the ball, a little shimmy, or a simple thank you to your God. This wasn’t the case for safety Husain Abdullah. He received an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty for dropping to the ground and praying after scoring on an interception against the New England Patriots. Abdullah is a devoted Muslim and participates in the traditions and practices including fasting even though training camp occurs at the same time. Fellow NFL player Tim Tebow, a Christian, also likes to thank his God after a touchdown but somehow has never been penalized for his actions.


Arturo Garcia, “Muslim NFL player penalized for praying after touchdown,” RawStory, March 29, 2014.

Student Researcher: Kristoffer Jimenez, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

Ethics Alert

Religion or athletic entertainment? Can we even tell the difference anymore? It seems that with this fast paced world we live in, one can blur the lines between the two. Who is to decide what is right, wrong, valuable or not valuable?
As we’re in the midst of another NFL football season it’s no surprise that fans suit up every Sunday to cheer their beloved teams. The concern here is when fans (or in this case, the referee) are offended by a religious celebration when, in fact, the game can itself be considered a kind of religious celebration. Even though the game is just a game in the end, it seems that people are offended only when one of a different faith expresses that faith on the field.

How is the game a religious celebration one might ask? Well, coincidentally enough NFL games are played on Sundays, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s the worship, rituals, chanting, team colors, songs, the list goes on and on; just as one might do at a church, synagogue, monastery, or even at home.

The problem in this case is that a devoted Muslim player received a penalty after a religious celebration, when players alike celebrate in religious fashion and never get penalized. For example, Kevin Durant (NBA Superstar) points to the sky thanking his God after a made basket, or even Tim Tebow (NFL player/Devoted Christian) prays on one knee after a touchdown. They never receive any type of penalty for their actions, but when a Muslim celebrates he gets penalized.

The lines get blurred when it’s okay to chant for your team but it’s not okay to celebrate your religion. In other words, it’s okay to root for your team religiously but not okay to root for your God religiously when your religion is not the same as everyone around you? Are we prepared to tolerate this sort of unfairness and double standard as a society?