After scoring the first touchdown of his high school football career, Fort Myers High student Sam Turner did what numerous professional players have done: He knelt down with a finger pointed towards the sky.
While kneeling in the end zone, Turner noticed the yellow flag fly in from over his shoulder. Turner was hit was a 15-yard penalty for his celebration that was deemed to be "unsportsmanlike" by the official.
“I said ‘thank you, God, for this talent you’ve blessed me with,’” Turner told News-Press.
Turner went on to to explain that he was also paying respects to JoJo Brunson, a friend who had been killed in a drive-by shooting the previous year.
Although Turner’s actions were damaging to the team in the way of field position, Turner says that teammates and fans alike have supported his actions.
“I use my faith as a platform for my talents. My teammates are giving me tons of support,” he said. “They all know I’m a strong believer, even though it cost us 15 yards.”
According to WINK-TV, the National Federation of State High School Association rulebook allows for penalties to be dealt to players who commit any sort of celebration that excessively causes the focus to be directed to them.
In a similar case, Kansas City Chiefs player Husain Abdullah was penalized for an on-field prayer that resulted in harsh criticism from fans. The NFL has since clarified their ruling saying that so long it is an act of religious expression, on-field prayers will be allowed without penalty.
NFL spokesperson Michael Signora told NBC, “The officiating mechanic in this situation is not to flag a player who goes to the ground as part of religious expression, and as a result, there should have been no penalty on the play.”
Source: The Blaze