KANSAS CITY (AFP) - Kansas City player Husain Abdullah was wrongly penalised for kneeling in prayer to celebrate his score in the Chiefs 41-14 win over New England on Monday night, the National Football League (NFL) announced on Tuesday.
"Husain Abdullah should not have been penalised for unsportsmanlike conduct following his fourth quarter touchdown," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
According to Rule 12 Section 3, Article 1 (d), "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground".
"However, the officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play," McCarthy added.
Abdullah, a devout Muslim, slid to his knees after intercepting a Tom Brady pass for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. He then leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the end zone grass.
Abdullah said he thought the officials were penalising him for the exaggerated slide.
"For me, I just got a little too excited. I think it was for the slide," he said.
The incident caused a firestorm on social media. Many were quick to criticise the officials, including Abdullah's agent CJ LaBoy who indicated that his client was practising the 'sajda', a religious prayer. "If the NFL tries to fine @HAbdullah39 for his TD celebration there's going to be some problems," LaBoy wrote on his Twitter account.
Abdullah skipped the entire 2012 NFL season to take a pilgrimage to Mecca with his brother and former NFL player, Hamza.