|Abdullah praying in the end zone in the Week 4 match-up vs. New England|
Just when you thought that the NFL could not have any more issues, a referee penalized a player in the process of a harmless religious act.
Husain Abdullah was ostensibly penalized for practicing Sajdah, an Islamic prayer, on the football field last Monday. The NFL would like the general public to believe:
1. According to Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL Rulebook, "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground."
2. They penalized him not because he prayed, but because he did so while the ground.
3. They are justified in their decision, but wish to set a precedence in the future that there is an exception for religious praises.
To think that a league where minorities are a majority could be so lacking in cultural competency is mind-boggling. Chris Kluwe is sued the Vikings because he believes he was cut for his views on gay marriage, Michael Sam enters the league and other players began to verbally attack him because of his sexual orientation even before the NFL Draft, Ray Rice knocks out his wife and the league (allegedly) attempts to hide the details and give him a slap on the wrist, and now they have made waves again with this display of ignorance.
In this context, a WASP is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or the defining characteristics of the American majority. The NFL is being run by a front office and a group of owners that for the most part fit into this category, and consequentially suffer from a lack of diverse opinions. Group Think. Nobody offers dissenting opinions, nobody deviates from the norm, nobody dares to disrupt the black and white box that they have stayed inside since the league was integrated.
America is a melting pot of such a variety of cultures that it extends into all walks of life: including athletics. With such a minority presence in the league, this governing body is unrepresentative of its population, and unfit to lead such a league. Abdullah has been outspoken about his faith since entering the league in 2008, notably observing fasting during Ramadan although it occasionally falls during the NFL Season. In addition to that, him and his brother Hamza sat out the entire 2012-13 season and made their Hajj to Mecca, one of the Pillars of Islam.
A popular comparison of the past week has been that of Tim Tebow, his devout Christianity, and the way he pushed his own faith unto the league. With his bible verse eye-paint (since outlawed by the NCAA) and constant references to his lord and saviour, his faith became the feel-good story of the NFL in 2011 as he miraculously won games with an unconventional throwing motion and utter lack of passing accuracy.
|Tim Tebow "Tebowing" on the sideline of a Broncos game in 2011|
However, although Tebow (theoretically speaking) forced his religious views onto us, there are no incidents of Touchdown Celebrations in which the infamous "Tebowing" occurred. In all situations, such was done on the sidelines, or before and after games, at times or places where players are far less likely to be penalized. Additionally, as the NFL and Abdullah himself have stated, the new touchdown celebration rules prohibit sliding to the ground as a form of celebrating. In the words of Abdullah, "Stop before you drop."
In fact, the incident here is not a problem of outright prejudice at all, but one of ignorance. The NFL is ignorant to the major social justice issues that surround every decision they make, whether it is gay rights, domestic violence, or freedom of expression. Gone are the days where football is a world of its own. TV Contracts, Facebook, Twitter, and an ever growing fan-base have turned athletes into social media starlets.
A 30 second interview with Richard Sherman last winter sparked a debate about the portrayal of African-Americans in the media that lasted weeks. Michael Sam agreed to do a documentary with the Oprah Winfrey Network before he even set foot in an NFL Locker Room. The scope of the NFL is limitless, and the league has to realize that they cannot continue to do things they way they have in the past.
Sidenote: NFL Power Rankings. We are a third of the way through the season and nobody is creating separation in the divisional races.