Fort Myers High School senior football player Sam Turner had just scored his first touchdown when he did what some athletes have done for years, take a knee and say a prayer. What happened next has drawn scrutiny and reignited a discussion of how much celebrating should be allowed on the field.
As soon as Turner took a knee for the prayer, he was flagged for excessive celebration by the referees in the game, according to Fort Myers NBC affiliate WBBH.
The call wasn’t about the prayer, but about excessive celebration. Refs can flag a player if they believe the player is drawing attention to himself, WBBH reported.
There are similar rules in major college football and in the National Football League. The NFL came under fire earlier this year after a 15-yard penalty was enforced against Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah after he dropped to his knees and bowed in prayer after returning an interception for a touchdown.
The NFL later clarified that Abdullah shouldn’t have been flagged for an unsportsmalike conduct penalty, even though Rule 12, Section 3, Article (d) says players are “prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground,” according to ESPN.com.
The NFL said officials shouldn’t penalize a player who goes to the ground as part of a religious expression.
As for Turner, students are allowed to pray before the game and after the game, but in this case, not during the game, according to WBBH.