A Kansas City Chiefs safety was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during Monday night's thrashing of the New England Patriots after bowing to pray in the end zone after intercepting a pass from Tom Brady.
Husain Abdullah, a Muslim who reportedly missed the entire 2012 season for a pilgrimage to Mecca, told The Kansas City Star, "If I get a pick, I'm going to prostrate before God in the end zone."
He posted a picture of himself bowing on his Instagram page and commented, "Subhana Rabbial- 'Ala" (Glory be to my Lord The High.)
According to league rules, Section 3, Article 1 (d), "players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground."
There are religious exceptions, but The Star pointed to Abdullah's slide into the end zone after his 39-yard interception touchdown.
"I think it was for the slide," he told the paper.
The NFL said Tuesday Abdullah should not have been penalized.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora wrote in an email to The Associated Press that "the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression."
Signora says "there should have been no penalty on the play."
Andy Reid, Abdullah's coach, apparently still happy from the 41-14 win, said, "When you go to Mecca, you should be able to slide wherever you want. We've got two priests in here. They'd probably vouch for me."
The NFL appeared to quickly distance itself from the penalty because even the appearance of penalizing a 29-year-old player who is compared to Tim Tebow threatened to be a public relations snafu for a league still trying to emerge from high-profile domestic violence scandals.
One person posted on Twitter, "If the NFL tries to fine @HAbdullah39 for his TD celebration there's going to be some problems."