NFL double standards unacceptable


Policing specificities of rulebook ignores larger issues in the league


The NFL can’t seem to get anything right these days, from getting a handle on its domestic abuse situation to settling the Washington Redskins team name debate once and for all. During Monday night’s football game against the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs safety Hussain Abdullah was flagged for “excessive celebration” for sliding into a prayer after scoring the second touchdown of his career. The exact words of the referee were “unsportsmanlike conduct, going to the ground.”

The NFL issued a statement on Tuesday to clarify that according to its official rulebook, getting on the ground is indeed a violation — but religious celebrations are exempt, and Abdullah should not have been flagged. But we still think they should have issued more of an apology for a pretty insensitive mistake. The referee’s immediate reaction was to flag Abdullah for excessive celebration as soon as he saw the player on the ground, even though it was not by any stretch of the word “excessive” at all — and the team was given a 15-yard penalty for it.

The No Fun League is getting more and more uptight over its endless list of highly specific rules regulating players’ actions on the field, especially when it comes to celebrating touchdowns. The rules were put into place because, yes, in the past there were some pretty excessive celebrations that probably detracted from the game (climbing up goalposts, ridiculously elaborate acting, inappropriate taunts, etc.). Apparently there needs to be a clearer definition of what’s considered “excessive” to avoid this kind of confusion over the semantics of the exact rule in the book. But this whole thing probably could have been avoided in the first place if the referee just used common sense — and if this had happened with a white Christian, instead of Abdullah, a practicing Muslim.

No one had any issues with Tim Tebow for his practically iconic one-knee genuflection after every touchdown. Tebow’s devoutness was praised in the media, and the NFL certainly had no problem with all the positive attention he and the new “Tebow-ing” meme brought to the league. But Abdullah takes a couple of seconds to send up a quick prayer, and he’s immediately flagged for it.

Are we even surprised? Here was Tebow, a white, male, Christian all-American football player, and most people were more than comfortable getting on board with him praying during games. And now we have Abdullah, a practicing Muslim. Intentional or not — and either way, it’s unacceptable — the double standard couldn’t be more obvious. Granted, the “going on the ground” rule wasn’t in place while Tebow was in the league, but how many excuses are we really willing to make for a blatant case of profiling?

The NFL needs to stop obsessively policing every single action of its players on the field and start paying more attention to the things that actually matter. Like maybe the rampant issue of domestic abuse among its players, or the still-unresolved controversy over the Redskins, or player safety concerns, or perhaps working on its money-crazed image after its juvenile response to the FCC eliminating blackout rules on television — the list could go on.

There is absolutely no point in putting so much time and energy into dissecting the tiniest technicalities in the rulebook when there are so many blatant problems in the league itself that are being completely overlooked. The timeline of the news coming out about the league these days is almost comical: from “NFL commissioner admits punishment for domestic abuse was too soft,” to “Player flagged for celebratory prayer after scoring touchdown,” it honestly sounds like the league has completely lost its grip on everything. But unfortunately, that’s literally exactly the way it’s going. We didn’t think things could possibly get much worse for the league, but the NFL seriously needs to shape up and get its priorities in order.


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