#BBCTrending: The NFL player penalised for praying

Husain Abdullah kneels in prayer Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Abdullah missed the entire 2012 NFL season to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca

A Muslim NFL player was penalised after celebrating a touchdown by dropping to his knees in prayer. Many on social media were not at all happy with the call.

After scoring for the Kansas City Chiefs, Husain Abdullah slid on his knees and touched his forehead on the field as a gesture of his Muslim faith. The action drew a flag from an official for breaching the game's "excessive celebration" rule.

The referee's decision quickly prompted a negative reaction from social media users.

"I'm pretty sure the Husain Abdullah just got flagged 15 yards for praying... I don't consider that to be unsportsmanlike," said one Twitter user. "So Husain Abdullah literally just got a 15 yard penalty for being Muslim?" tweeted another.

It was not apparent whether the penalty had been given for bowing in prayer or for sliding when he scored. Officials did not speak to him about it after the game. Abdullah, 29, told the Kansas City Star newspaper that his coach had informed him he had been penalised for sliding. "For me, I just got a little too excited," he said.

The following morning, NFL VP of Football Communications Michael Signora acknowledged the decision had been a mistake, tweeting that Abdullah should not have been penalised.

Image copyright other

By that time, however, it was too late to quell the rising outrage. Much was made of Abdullah's devotion to his faith. The player had skipped the entire 2012 season to go on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca with his brother, another NFL player. Many tweeters drew a contrast with Tim Tebow, the Christian quarterback noted for kneeling in prayer so often that the practice has become known as "Tebowing".

Image copyright Other
Image copyright Other
Image copyright other

And indeed Christians who had championed Tebow did the same for Abdullah.

"Fellow Christian #NFL fans, I'm gonna be real disappointed if I don't see you defending Husain Abdullah's right to pray like we did Tebow's," one tweeted.

Others were more facetious. John Fugelsang said: "I'd like to thank Husain Abdullah for proving Muslims think God really cares about football as much as Christians think it."

Reported by Jon Kelly

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