Apparently, someone else is upset with the National Football League. Guess Who? The Refs.
The NFL Referees Association has publicly criticized the league for an inconsistent message to its on-field officials, specifically regarding two incidents this season in which penalties were called on the field, followed by mixed messages from the league in response. The referees are upset that the NFL is playing both sides of the fence.
In a statement, the NFL Referees Association said, “In the last two weeks, two penalties that were called in games that drew national attention were publicly announced to be in error by the League office; however the Officiating Department later graded the calls as correct. This has caused confusion for NFL officials as to what the League does and doesn’t want called.”
The NFLRA is left scratching their collective heads. How could two differing plays be ruled correct to the officials, but incorrect to the teams?
The first play in question occurred in week three during the Washington-Philadelphia game, when Washington defensive lineman Chris Baker hit Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles.
While the play drew a 15-yard penalty and ejection, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent strangely said Baker did nothing wrong and wouldn’t be fined, even though he clearly broke the NFL rule on blindsiding a player away from the play.
What made this even more puzzling was, privately, this penalty was graded as correct by the NFL, meaning the referees were correct in their interpretation of the rules. However, the NFL told the media that the hit on Foles was “legal” because the quarterback was a “part of the play,” as he was running toward the intercepted pass.
The second play in question is more troublesome. Players are allowed to celebrate a touchdown, within reason. Some like to leap into the stands, some like to throw the ball against the wall of the stadium, others like to dunk the ball on the goalposts. Another popular way to celebrate is to drop to the knee and give thanks to the Creator, then get up and point to the sky. That is never flagged.
This past Monday night, during the football game between the Patriots and the Chiefs, the second penalty in question occurred.
Chiefs’ safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and scored a touchdown. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.
Abdullah, you see, is Muslim. When Abdullah scored, he slid on his knees and assumed the Muslim praying position. The referee threw a flag for “excessive celebration.” Abdullah was penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Huh? If you allow Christian players to pray to God after a score, shouldn’t you allow a Muslim player to pray to Allah? After all, if you allow one, shouldn’t you allow the other?
The referee who called the penalty stated that the reason for the penalty was not for praying, but for the sliding on the knees into the end zone. “The player was flagged, correctly, for the slide on his knees in the end zone, not for going to the ground in a prayerful gesture,” NFLRA President Scott Green said in a statement, according to Pro Football Talk. “On-field officials are aware of the prayer provision and respect the right of players of all faiths to express themselves.”
The NFL said later that, “a player that goes to the ground as part of religious expression should NOT be penalized. While the player did slide immediately before beginning his prayer, this was not a correct call and the play should not have resulted in a penalty.”
Are you clear now, on what is right and wrong? Me neither. Keep watching. I’m sure there will be more wrong than right in this game that we love.
Ronnie Garcia is the voice of reason at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @CapnDD.