In Jesus’s Name I Play: Is Rule 9-2 unconstitutional?

posted in: Fall, Sports | 0
 How would you feel if you just scored a touchdown in a football game, or a goal in a soccer game, and you were penalized for giving thanks to a higher power? According to National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Rule 9-2, “Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)” will result in a 15- yard penalty.

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.

Shouldn’t everyone be able to honor their faith whether they are an athlete or not without the fear of penalty? That may be the real question behind this debate.


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