Religion in Sports

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“What if the first thing Tim Tebow said in interviews was: ‘First, I would like to thank Allah and send blessings upon Prophet Muhammad.’ Would America think God was on his side then?”

-Huffington Post

Think about it. The world of sports is controlled by religion. Although religion very heavily influences soccer around the world, it influences football as well. The NFL (National Football League) is dominated by Christianity. The NFL’s Instagram page is littered with pictures from after games of players from both teams huddling in the middle of the field, praying. They use the hashtag #FootballIsFamily. Postgame speeches often involve God. After a heartbreaking loss in the 2012 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, Ravens legend Ray Lewis gave his team a speech. “God has never made a mistake. He’s never made one mistake,” Ray said to his team. Ray Lewis, one of the most religious players in the league, made God the center of his life during his time in the NFL. Most players do the same. If you look on the sideline during the late stages of a game, you can see players and coaches alike holding their hands together in prayer. Kickers, possibly the position with the most pressure, often cross their chests before a kick. Yet do we ever see any players kneeling on the sideline, facing Mecca, and praying to Allah?

0.04% of the players in the NFL are Muslim. That is equivalent to 6 players out of all of the active players in the NFL. Husain Abdullah, starting free safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, is one of these 6 active players. Abdullah, age 30, helped the Kansas City Chiefs defense become one of the most feared defenses this year. Abdullah takes religion more seriously than he does football, which is incredible. Abdullah sat out the entire 2012-2013 season to make his Hajj to Mecca, one of the five pillars of the Islam faith. Abdullah fasts during Ramadan, even if it is during the NFL season. In 2014, Abdullah intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and celebrated by sliding on his knees, bowing and giving praise in Islamic salutation. He was penalized 15 yards for this action. This spread controversy across the NFL, and later in the week the NFL apologized for the penalty. Husain Abdullah expresses his faith just as much as some players do, but the only difference is his religion. If players were penalized for every time they pointed to the sky, or crossed their chests, or saluted to God, there would be a large amount of penalties in the league. As the NFL expands to begin accepting gay players, they need to be more accepting towards players of different religions.

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