Since I don’t have Tom Brady on my roster in either of my Fantasy Football leagues, I think that anytime an opposing defensive player intercepts the Patriots’ quarterback for a pick six should be cause for celebration. Even excessive celebration. But, at the very least, he should be allowed to pray.
In what has become a rather pathetically sad year for NFL officials, including Roger “I swear I didn’t see the Ray Rice videotape” Goodell, it seems the nation’s premier sports’ league has another public relations mess on its hands. After penalizing Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Husain Abdullah for unsportsmanlike conduct for “going to the ground” in the end zone following his interception and touchdown return in Kansas City’s beat down of New England Monday night, the powers-that-be in the National Football League are picking up the flag, albeit a day late.
According to Michael Signora, VP of Football Communications for the NFL:
“Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”
While “going to the ground” to celebrate after a score will typically result in a penalty, there is a built-in exception to the rule: if a player goes to ground for religious reasons, he should not be penalized. In a sport where winning is supposed to be valued, the drive to eradicate the natural human tendency to celebrate after a touchdown borders on the ludicrous. Anyone who has ever been involved in any type of athletic competition knows that it is virtually impossible to control your emotions after a big play, particularly a touchdown.
However, the nanny-state mindset has so infiltrated our sporting culture, such that we can’t keep score at little league games (although everyone I know, particularly the fathers, know exactly what the score is and who won and who lost each game) or “excessively celebrate” after a score. And, such a rule against “excessive celebration” tends to be so subjective. I am certainly not advocating unsportsmanlike behavior after a play or after a touchdown, but the officiating crews at NFL games can certainly give much more latitude than they do now.
If the officials at Monday night’s game would have used a modicum of common sense (apparently in such short supply in the NFL these days), then there would have been no way to interpret a short slide into a praying position to be “going to the ground” in an unsportsmanlike way. Abdullah’s actions were so quick and integrated that it would take a moron to think that he was doing anything other than praying.
Many analysts have rightly chastised the officials for getting it wrong last night, although they have wrongly compared the situation to Tim Tebow and his famous (or infamous) “Tebowing.” I certainly wish that this was a valid, contemporary comparison, but Tebow has not been given an opportunity to kneel in the end zone in three years. Of course, there are a few teams that could use his knack for scoring and winning, but, alas, they would rather lose with a “conventional” quarterback than win with an unconventional one. But, I digress.
Since Tebow led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in 2011, the rules on excessive celebration have been tightened. And, while there remains an exception for players who go to the ground for religious reasons, Monday’s flag had more to do with excessive stupidity and rigidity in the NFL than any anti-Muslim or anti-religion bias.
If the National Football League wants to get back in the good graces of the American sports’ watching public, then they need to stop the nonsense, both on the field and off the field. Let the players play. Let them pray. And, let Roger Goodell say “good day” as he is, none-too-soon, ejected from NFL headquarters in New York City. When that happens, there will be cause for excessive celebration and no flags will be thrown!