Does The NFL Have A Religious Double Standard?

There’s no arguing that religion plays a significant role in the NFL. (Of course, some people might argue that the NFL is a religion itself, but that’s another topic.) Players hit their knees to pray whenever a serious injury occurs (like with Willis McGahee this past weekend), at the end of games, whenever they score a touchdown – heck, probably to celebrate successfully charging through the smoke-filled tunnel before the game.

Which has led the folks at the NY TIMES FREAKONOMICS BLOG to ask a question: shouldn’t the folks at the atheist American Humanist Association – who recently failed in their quest to have “So help me God” removed from the presidential oath of office – be focusing on the NFL instead? After all, their rules on touchdown celebrations seem to be a little biased. For proof, check out the video from soon-to-be-ex head of officiating Mike Pereira has to say on the subject:

So basically, the league doesn’t want you to make a spectacle of yourself, unless you are making a spectacle for yourself to draw attention to your love of Jesus. Great. I wonder if there would be a flag if a Muslim receiver celebrated a touchdown by pulling a prayer rug and gives thanks to Allah while facing Mecca?

Of course, this will never happen. In order to make a big deal about this, the AHA or any other organization would have to have an atheist player to give them support. (And probably to do some sort of atheist celebration to draw a penalty and spark a lawsuit. I have no idea what that would be, other than pulling out some spray paint and making a Darwin fish on the field.) Good luck finding someone willing to go out on a limb like that.

But it does raise the question: why is a league that plays the vast majority of its games on Sunday mornings or early afternoons,  drawing millions of people away from their Christian church service, willing to make an exception to its rules for an act of worship? A little bit of good old fashioned Catholic guilt, perhaps?

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