So, as we all know, the NFL is having a rough patch. (And as a Baltimore Ravens fan, the past month has been particularly painful for me). I was particularly intrigued by the latest (non-Ray Rice-related) gaffe – the penalty imposed on Kansas City Chiefs’ Husain Abdullah for bowing in Muslim prayer after intercepting a Tom Brady pass and running it back for a touchdown.
The NFL’s rule is “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.” After the touchdown, Abdullah slid on his knees and then touched his forehead to the ground in prayer – the Muslim “sajdah.” He immediately received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for violating the rule. This sparked a social media firestorm, with people wondering how this was different than a Christian athlete dropping to one knee in prayer following a touchdown (Tim Tebow, famously, for example…).
The good thing is that the NFL stepped up the next morning to acknowledge the problem. In a tweet, the NFL’s vice president of football communication, Michael Signora, stated, “Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”
As any employer knows (or they should), accommodations should be provided for an employee’s religious practices, as long as the accommodation is reasonable (meaning that it does not pose an undue hardship on the employer). In this case, the NFL will refrain from applying a workplace conduct rule – no celebrations on the ground – to thanks given in religious prayer. That doesn’t seem unreasonable!