There are thousands of religious athletes all across the country, many of which do choose to celebrate a score on the field or court by praying to their God. However, according to a lot of referees and officials, prayer can be defined as drawing attention to oneself. Now doesn’t this, essentially, violate our constitutional rights?
There were a few instances of football players being penalized for praying last season. One of these included a high school football player down in southern Florida. After catching his first touchdown pass, the tight end knelt down and thanked God. The referee threw a flag and penalized the player for excessive celebration.
The National Federation of State High School Associations backed the officials saying that a player can be penalized for “any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself.” A similar occurrence happened in the NFL last season.
A Kansas City Chiefs’ safety was given the same penalty for celebrating an interception return for a touchdown. The difference in this situation is that the Chiefs’ safety happened to be Muslim. For most Christian NFL players, they will not be penalized for praying after a big play.
Unlike the high school student who was penalized, the NFL quickly decided that the penalty was an error. We could argue all day whether it should be a penalty by rule to penalize an athlete for praying. Though, maybe we should be asking ourselves whether it is right to penalize someone for giving their thanks to God.