On a Slide and a Prayer

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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35 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    I’d like to think that all of us, even the atheists, were thanking God-as-we-understand-Him for The Handsomest Man In The NFL getting benched.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    Thanks for writing on this, Will. I don’t know anything about Vox. What is its intended audience? I ask because I’m curious how “representative” we can consider their take.

    This is the sort of thing that might qualify as a micro aggression. On it’s face, it is relatively minor and unlikely to contain any hostility or intent to cause harm. As you said, it is most likely borne out of ignorance. However, micro aggressions can take a cumulative toll over time and, usually, the camel’s back eventually breaks. I don’t think this is that as I haven’t seen anyone making too big an issue out of it save for the linked Vox article, but just because this wasn’t an explicit and conscious act of “Islamaphobia” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attend to the underlying cause(s) and seek to address it.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

      Vox is Ezra Klein’s and Matt Yglesias’s outfit.Report

    • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

      “However, micro aggressions can take a cumulative toll over time and, usually, the camel’s back eventually breaks.”

      isn’t a reference to a camel in the context of muslims itself a microaggression?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s just hard for me to see how this could/should be addressed, above and beyond what has already been done. CAIR responded by saying that the NFL needed to clarify its prayer rules and acknowledge their error. Which the NFL did. This shouldn’t have happened, but ultimately it’s probably a positive thing that this happened when it didn’t make a difference, and by virtue of it happening it’s less likely to happen when it does.

      During the interval in between the mistake and the NFL’s acknowledgment & clarification, this was indeed a story. CAIR was right and the NFL needed to respond. I don’t begrudge any commentary up to that point. After that point, though, I think the story needs a graver error to say “An acknowledgment of error is not enough.”Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        I would say that educating the referees to avoid future such occurrences would sufficiently address the issue (though I’m not particularly qualified to speak on the matter).Report

      • Ideally, they’re thinking broader and looking and Sikh traditions and whatnot, wondering if they have anything to be concerned about.Report

      • notme in reply to Will Truman says:


        You say the refs should be educated. How should the refs be educated? Maybe the NFL could issue a guide with every players religion in it so the refs could consult it when a player scores?Report

      • If the rule is you can’t get on the ground to celebrate a touchdown, unless it’s in prayer, then it’s not exactly unreasonable to be educated what may constitute a prayer.

        Or you can nix the prayer exception.

        Or you can just say “Only Christian prayers count.”Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman says:

        Well, I don’t think you can say “only Christian prayers count.” Although they are well-paid and have individual employment contracts and a collective bargaining agreement, NFL players are, ultimately, employees of someone else. And as employees, they enjoy the statutory right to not suffer adverse employment actions taken against them on the basis of their religion. If you allow one kind of prayer, you have to allow them all. Or you can prohibit them altogether, or ask that they happen off the field or at times that the game is not in progress or some other sort of reasonable rule. “Only Christian prayers” isn’t a reasonable rule.Report

      • notme in reply to Will Truman says:


        You make it sound so simple but what exactly constitutes a “prayer.” If I score a touchdown and then fall on the ground and writhe like I’m having an epileptic fit, who is to say that isn’t a prayer?Report

      • If you’re not willing to try to make that determination, then don’t have an exemption.

        If you are going to have that exemption, then find out how different people from different cultures pray.Report

  3. James Hanley says:

    I think people that make it to the endzone should act like they aren’t surprised to be there,

    Some years back, a freshman at Purdue got flagged for celebration after scoring a touchdown. His coach told him he should act like he’d been there before, and he responded, “But, coach, I haven’t been there before!”Report

  4. ScarletNumbers says:

    This reminds me of the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl

    In the game, Kansas State scored a touchdown with 1:13 remaining to pull within 2 of Syracuse, extra point pending. However, when the Kansas State player scored, he saluted the military members in the stands. The officials took this to be taunting and penalized the Wildcats for unsportsmanlike conduct. This means they had to try the extra point from the 18 rather than the 3. They missed it.Report

  5. Hoosegow Flask says:

    comments that Tebow does this “all the time” notwithstanding. In fact, I can’t find a single incident of him doing so.

    Huh. Before this post, I would have sworn he did this as part of TD celebrations. But I can’t find any images or video either.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    Well, at least we’re no longer comparing Tebow to Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice.Report

  7. Michael Drew says:

    I’d only heard about this and hadn’t actually seen what he was flagged for until just now. I have to say, I’m flabbergasted that a flag was thrown for that at all, no matter what the rule says, especially if the rule is no different than it was for Tebow’s demonstrations.

    The subsection of the rule that spurred the flag is, “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground” (where there is presumably a more general statement of what the excessive celebration rule is preceding this particular, along with other particulars alongside it).

    What counts as “on the ground,” though? A person standing on the ground can very reasonably be said to be “on the ground.” You can stand on the ground, kneel on the ground (I think that description is the best one for both Abdullah’s and Tebow’s postures), sit on the ground, or lay on the ground. So it’s not like this provision does much to eliminate ambiguity bout the aim of the larger rule.

    The religious exemption is fine, and I’d want to keep it if there is going to be a celebration rule at all, but I actually wonder whether the problem here is really that the conduct that is the target of the rule here is actually too well defined, so that it produces false positives. Clearly, the problem is not “going to the ground” in all instances. It’s some subset thereof, combined with subsets of other action categories of various descriptions. So maybe describing the particular actions is not the right way to go about this. Perhaps the right way would be to describe the general character of the celebrations you’re seeking to single out, perhaps in example form rather than abstract description form, and then say that the rule is simply that refs are to use their judgement in deciding when a celebration crosses some undefined line that’s at most vaguely suggested by the description of the disapproved conduct. The refs are human; as long as you stipulate ahead of time that it’s how the rule works, I’m guessing players can figure out how avoid getting called for excessive celebration if the rule in effect is, “Look, just don’t force the ref to call you for making an idiot of yourself or the League or delaying the game too much” – at least, if they want to.

    Whether we’re talking about NFL referees or justices of the United States Supreme Court, as Sandra Sotomayor reminded us at her confirmation hearing, in laying out either the crafting of laws and rules or approaches to the application thereof, sometimes it might be to our advantage to recognize that the agents we will be using to apply our laws and rules are very likely in the medium term at least to be human beings not computers, and to think about ways we can actually use that fact to our advantage in getting out of our rules and laws what we want out of them.Report

    • I’d only heard about this and hadn’t actually seen what he was flagged for until just now. I have to say, I’m flabbergasted that a flag was thrown for that at all, no matter what the rule says, especially if the rule is no different than it was for Tebow’s demonstrations.

      Not sure what or which you mean here. As far as I can tell, Tebow never did his prayer thing in touchdown celebrations during a game. See Tebow paragraph in the OP. (If you missed that, no problem, just fill in RG3’s name and you’re set.)Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman says:

        You know, I’d always assumed that was a touchdown prayer. Now I’m going to have to take back some of the bad things I said about Tebow nothing I ever said about Tebow because I never really had a problem with him praying in the first place. It was his accuracy and questionable judgment every time the other team could put together a pass rush, much less a blitz. And it was sort of odd how the fans created a quarterback controversy and then won, because it didn’t seem to me that Kyle Orton was particularly the problem with Denver that year and what the hell, they made the playoffs despite downgrading their passing game to Dayton Triangle-like levels.

        Abdullah’s prayer doesn’t bug me either; his prayer is a bit different-looking than a Christian prayer but that’s in large part because he’s not a Christian, he’s Muslim. Me, I sort of like secular touchdown celebrations and I wish they’d bring back the Ickey Shuffle.Report

      • I had the same assumption, then someone said that he prayed before and after games and I noticed that all of the pictures I’d seen had him with his helmet off, which is rare for a touchdown celebration and probably a celebration penalty whether for prayer or not. The other examples in the link had helmets on.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

        I did miss that wrt Tebow. Ironically (though only due to my lazy reading), perhaps Vikram binging up Tebow only to say that people bringing up Tebow has only served to derail conversations on this, itself (kind of inevitably) ended up derailing the conversation (though only a bit) about this, especially since, as Vikram says, there are enough examples of other prayer that has not been flagged.

        I remain flabbergasted that the refs called this at all, and as I don’t think that NFL refs are likely strongly driven by anti-non-Christian bigotry in their calls, I remain of the view that the likely problem here is that the rule is actually too specific and yet not specific enough at the same time. Ultimately, what is required here, no matter how you write the rule, is for refs to show judgement in picking out the conduct the League wants to target. I think the language in the rule right now might be getting in the way of that more than helping them do so. The religious exemption is fine, but if the description of the behavior that’s to be flagged is both too specific and basically not even accurate to what’s they’re trying to target, then you’re probably putting too much strain on the refs to filter out what is prayer from what is formally implicated by the rule, even though some of that they probably don;t even really care to see called.

        (I.e., can’t we imagine some element of celebration that involves the ground that we don’t really have a problem with that’s not prayer? Hell, how is spiking the football not “going to the ground”? I realize that’s not the language of the rule, but that’s the exact gloss on it that the League itself used in its statement explaining that the ref failed to apply the religious exemption, if I’m not mistaken. Part of me thinks the whole rule should really be folded into delay-of-game, as I think that’s basically what the concern is, combined with a prohibition on specifically threatening or taunting gestures. …Anyway, yadda yadda yada yadda yadda, yeesh. All these words. Maybe they should just scrap the whole thing, come to think of it. And by “the whole thing,” no, I don’t exactly mean “football” …yet.)Report

  8. James Hanley says:

    This is America. He should be praying to an American God.Report