In the 1960s, most touchdowns in the NFL seemed to be celebrated by fans with little show from players. A player might toss the ball to the ref and be greeted by a couple of teammates on the jog back to the bench. In the 1970s, TD celebrations by players became more prevalent. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was most notable. With time, the celebrations became almost choreographed. The NFL had to intervene with rules to limit what had become a time-suck for the viewer at home.
One type of celebration that also consumed time was the quasi-religious celebration. A player might kneel in the end zone or point up at the sky. This type of celebration seemed to pass muster of the NFL rules people.
I do not care the mode of expression of TD celebration. Unless the TD ended the game, get the players off the field and keep the game moving.
In September 29's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the—I have to brace myself before I type out this team’s name—New England Patriots (evilEvilEVIL team), Kansas City player Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown; a “pick-6.” Abdullah then fell to his knees for a brief prayer. Abdullah is a follower of Islam. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, the penalty assessed on the ensuing kickoff.
The NFL rules states players are “prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground.” Perhaps the rule was meant to preclude pilings-on in the end zone. Of course, taken literally, the rule only would allow a player to celebrate a touchdown while somehow in levitation. After all, those feet are on the ground. As I understand it, both feet had to be on the ground and the ball in the player’s control—wait, that’s another rule.
Tim Tebow and others of the Christian faith have celebrated with a knee to the ground and head bowed. I do not recall a flag being thrown in those instances.
The First Amendment protects freedom of religion against government intrusion. One might argue the NFL, with its antitrust exemption and massive governmental subsidies, borders on being a governmental entity. That is a discussion for another day. The point we should see is that if a religious exemption exists for the TD celebration rule, it should exist for all religions, not only the religion most popular with the optimum number of fans.
My personal view is that all touchdown celebrations should be banned. We should get the game moving. I get it—a guy scored six points. Great—unless he plays for the New England squad, or whatever team plays the Bears or the Colts in a particular week. Take the ball and hand it to a trainer to put in the trophy room at home later. Get the kicking unit on the field.
TD celebrations are trite. The NFL should not discriminate in favor of one religion in that regard. I am fairly confident there is no “god”—Steven Hawking said that last week. If there is, I doubt the supreme deity will be pissed off if a player fails to give thanks for those last six points. I doubt the supreme deity would care one way or another. This is a game, after all. (On the other hand, if there is a Satan, that personage cheers every time New England does well. Just sayin’.)
The NFL either should stop the celebrations altogether or, if there is a religious exemption, it should apply to all religions equally. If that occurs, fans generally might get bored enough that the NFL bans such celebrations altogether.