There was a time where you could watch Monday Night Football in peace, without having to worry about supporting an unethical organization marred by unending controversy. That time is over. During Monday's Kansas City Chiefs-New England Patriots game, Chiefs player Husain Abdullah knelt down to say a Muslim prayer after returning an impressive interception for a touchdown. He was swiftly penalized by the referees, who called it "unsportsmanlike conduct." The kicker? Christian prayers are allowed in the end zone.
After running the ball 40 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, Abdullah got down to his knees and bent his head in prayer. The refs promptly made an "unsportmanslike conduct" call for kneeling down, and handed the Chiefs a 15-yard penalty.
The call lit up social media; football fans questioned the merits of the call and whether or not the refs knew Abdullah was praying. If the refs did know Abdullah was saying a quick prayer, then there was no sufficient reason for the call. Although players can't "celebrate" on the ground, there's an exception in the NFL rulebook for praying, as exhibited by quarterback and faithful Christian Tim Tebow. In fact, Tebow's praises to God became so famous that it even received its own catchphrase: Tebowing.
When you take into account the amount of time Tebow would Tebow (and sometimes, it was a pretty long prayer), it makes Abdullah's "unsportmanslike conduct" call even stranger. If you look at the replays, Abdullah was barely on the ground.
The NFL did not immediately release a comment on the call until Tuesday morning, when NFL vice president of football communication Michael Signora took to Twitter, saying the refs made an apparent mistake.
It's a good thing the NFL came out against the controversial call, as Abdullah's agent also wasn't too amused by the penalty.
It's well-known in the NFL world that Abdullah is a practicing Muslim. Since joining the NFL, Abdullah has observed fasting during Ramadan, which means no eating or drinking during the daytime. His decision to fast during practice and games was known by his coaches, and soon became national sports news. "I'm putting nothing before God, nothing before my religion," Abdullah told The Associated Press in 2010.
Needless to say, the refs probably knew Abdullah was saying a brief Islamic prayer. Way to go, NFL.
Images: Getty Images, Deadspin