End Zone Prayer = Unsportsmanlike Conduct? 15-Year-Old Flagged With Penalty

He made a touch down and knelt down in an end zone prayer. Unsportsmanlike conduct is the penalty he was slapped with and charged a 15-yard penalty.

The player in question is Sam Turner, and he said the end zone prayer that lead to his penalty was simply about thanking God for his talents, according to Fox News.

“I felt like I had to thank God for blessing me with the talent and passion to play football… So I dropped to a knee and thanked God for everything he’s done in my life.”

But according to Dan DeLuca of the News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida, the Florida High School Athletic Association and the South Gulf Football Officials Association both said the end zone prayer violated policies, and the call was the right one to make by the referee at the game.

“The section, which covers noncontact, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties lists as one of its examples, “any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself.”

“NFL rules also prohibit a player from going to the ground to celebrate, but do include an exemption for prayer. In September, the league said officials were wrong to penalize Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah for dropping to his knees in the end zone for a Muslim prayer.”

Public Relations Specialist Corey Sobers of the FHSAA told DeLuca that the issue was not with Turner’s prayer.

“It’s a judgment call… The penalty is not because he prayed. It’s because the official determined he was trying to focus attention on himself, and that’s the bigger issue in the official’s viewpoint.”

President Gil Whitmore of the SGFOA told DeLuca it was tough to know whether Turner was trying to call attention to himself by doing the prayer on the field.

“It’s a tough spot to be in… We don’t know all these players individually so we have no idea what’s genuine and what’s not.”

As for Turner, Fox News quoted him as saying his end zone prayer penalty will not happen again, but it will not stop him from prayer at the games that are his life.

“I will definitely abide by the rules – but will give God praise the moment I get on the sidelines.”

Prayer at football games has been in the news a lot lately, with an incident as recently as last month where a coach was told to stop having post-game prayers with his team in Delaware.

[Image via Screenshot / Fox News]