Former Chiefs Safety Husain Abdullah Once Received a Penalty for an In-Game Prayer

Before the NFL dealt with bad optics over the Colin Kaepernick situation, they had to deal with a similar controversy involving Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Husain Abdullah.

Much like Kaepernick, Abdullah wasn’t necessarily the guilty party in their respective situation Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem for social justice reasons, and Abdullah went down to the ground and prayed after a touchdown.

This is where the similarities between Abdullah and Kaepernick end. The NFL never officially disciplined Kaepernick for kneeling, but the league definitely tried doing it to Abdullah.

Husain Abdullah played seven NFL seasons

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Husain Abdullah never let going undrafted in 2008 get in his way.

After signing with the Minnesota Vikings, Abdullah grew into a pivotal special teams weapon in his first two seasons. Then-Vikings coach Brad Childress named Abdullah the starting strong safety in 2010, and he responded by totaling 75 tackles and intercepting three passes.

Concussion issues limited Abdullah to nine games in 2011, and he spent the next year away from football.

Abdullah joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 and recorded 127 tackles, two interceptions, and 13 pass breakups across 43 games and 22 starts with the Chiefs. He also intercepted Colts quarterback Andrew Luck twice in the AFC wild-card round in January 2014.

Abdullah received an in-game penalty for praying

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The fourth week of the 2014 NFL season ended with a showdown between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

That night is one that then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has surely forgotten. Kansas City routed the Patriots, 41-14, at Arrowhead Stadium. Although Brady’s three interceptions were an important storyline among talking heads, it didn’t come close to the Hussain Abdullah situation. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Abdullah intercepted Brady and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Abdullah, a devout Muslim, slid on his knees and bowed in prayer.

According to The New York Times, Abdullah had already decided that he would pray after any touchdown he scored.

“If I got a pick, I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone.”

An official, believing that Abdullah had committed unsportsmanlike conduct, threw a flag on the play.

The NFL later apologized to Husain Abdullah

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Hussain Abdullah’s touchdown prayer, and subsequent penalty, created an immediate controversy for the NFL.

Religious celebrations or dedications are frequent in the sports world. Former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow went viral for kneeling on one knee — or “Tebowing” — in prayer after a touchdown.

The NFL moved swiftly in clearing Abdullah’s name, and the league said one day later that the official should not have thrown the flag. In a post on his personal Twitter account, NFL spokesman Michael Signora explained why the official was wrong.

“Abdullah should not have been penalized. Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”

The NFL relaxed its touchdown celebration rules in 2017. Players have embraced those new rules and, in addition to traditions like spiking the ball performing a Lambeau Leap, have added group celebrations over the years.

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