Politics & Policy

NFL Causes Terrorism

Star Tribune throws a flag on pigskin Islamophobia after a prayer penalty.

In recent weeks, the National Football League has been blamed for many problems in American society. Minnesota’s premier newspaper just added another: Professional football is encouraging impressionable youths to join the Islamic State.

After Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for a touchdown celebration in which he bowed down in prayer, a Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed writer accused the league of jeopardizing national security through Islamophobia.

“For anyone wondering why angry Muslims join ISIL, this whole saga could easily make the list,” wrote Ahmed Tharwat, a host of a weekly Arab-American show on Twin Cities public television.

The NFL subsequently said the referees made the wrong call, but Tharwat and other commentators have used the episode to attack the league’s and the nation’s “Islamophobic culture​.” The headline of Tharwat’s piece described the United States as a thoroughly anti-Islamic culture: “NFL flap highlights America’s favorite game: Insulting Islam.”

Tharwat accuses football of being “too patriotic” and “too American” when contrasted with the international — and therefore more tolerant — flavor of soccer. The author suggests that American football fans should take cues from their transnational brethren who have had to be told to “Say No to Racism” through a multimillion-dollar worldwide campaign by FIFA after repeated incidents such as making monkey noises and throwing bananas at black players. In some cases, teams have been forced to play in completely empty stadiums as punishment for their fans’ racism.

But when bananas and slurs aren’t enough, and the fans are actually allowed in, soccer aficionados have been known to offer themselves as tokens of their supposedly cultural sophistication. In July, a preseason match in Austria involving Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa was stopped early after pro-Palestine protesters stormed the field and began attacking the team’s players. Maccabi’s coach told the Daily Mail that he was punched by the attackers.

But Tharwat has a greater concern: In the “post-ISIL beheading era,” the United States has become a place where “people on the street, politicians and the media (led by Fox News) call for the beheading of Islam.”

In fact, the Islamic beheading era turned out not to be in its “post” phase shortly after Tharwat filed his column, as the Islamic State beheaded British hostage Alan Henning, followed by the Sinai-based Sunni Islamic group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis​, which took credit Sunday for beheading three Egyptian nationals. These were actual, rather than symbolic, decapitations.

Abdullah’s celebration was relatively tame and inoffensive, and shows of spirituality have been frequent in sports. Abdullah himself said he thought the penalty was for sliding on his knees into the endzone rather than for bowing his head in prayer. If the refs were consciously trying to insult his faith, they would have had to make some very rapid calculations, as Abdullah’s pick-six, including a 38-yard run, took only seven seconds, and the flag was thrown a mere two seconds after his touchdown.

The most abhorrent things on display in the game were the New England Patriots’ defense and the refs’ poor decision making. There were no instances of militants joining the Islamic State for either reason. Tharwat’s claims are overwrought, hyperbolic foolishness.

— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.

Most Popular

Media

How American Journalism Died

In 2017, the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University found that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative. The center found similarly negative Trump coverage at other major news outlets. The election year 2020 has only accelerated ... Read More
Media

How American Journalism Died

In 2017, the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University found that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative. The center found similarly negative Trump coverage at other major news outlets. The election year 2020 has only accelerated ... Read More

The Last Days of Robin Williams

After Robin Williams hanged himself in 2014, the media speculated that financial troubles or depression related to drug or alcohol use might have been the cause. Without discussing those topics, Williams’s widow, Susan Schneider Williams, is eager to set the record straight and does so in Robin’s Wish, a ... Read More

The Last Days of Robin Williams

After Robin Williams hanged himself in 2014, the media speculated that financial troubles or depression related to drug or alcohol use might have been the cause. Without discussing those topics, Williams’s widow, Susan Schneider Williams, is eager to set the record straight and does so in Robin’s Wish, a ... Read More

In Praise of Trade School

About a decade ago, I participated in a discussion hosted by the chamber of commerce in a university town about state policies regarding higher education. I’ll never forget the first comment I got from one of the attendees. “The problem with your presentation,” she said, “is that it didn’t focus ... Read More

In Praise of Trade School

About a decade ago, I participated in a discussion hosted by the chamber of commerce in a university town about state policies regarding higher education. I’ll never forget the first comment I got from one of the attendees. “The problem with your presentation,” she said, “is that it didn’t focus ... Read More
Elections

Is the Biden Campaign Struggling?

On the menu today: a long, long list of Democrats warning that the Biden campaign may not be as strong as it looks in key states and among key demographics; another former White House staffer comes out and denounces the president, offering a hard lesson about how personnel is policy; and a long look at the ... Read More
Elections

Is the Biden Campaign Struggling?

On the menu today: a long, long list of Democrats warning that the Biden campaign may not be as strong as it looks in key states and among key demographics; another former White House staffer comes out and denounces the president, offering a hard lesson about how personnel is policy; and a long look at the ... Read More
World

Why Trump’s Mideast Peace Deals Matter

After Israel’s resounding victory over the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies in 1967, the Jewish state again offered the Arab world peace in exchange for recognition. And it was again rebuffed. Instead, the Arab League convened in Khartoum to formulate a consensus response that became known as “The 3 ... Read More
World

Why Trump’s Mideast Peace Deals Matter

After Israel’s resounding victory over the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies in 1967, the Jewish state again offered the Arab world peace in exchange for recognition. And it was again rebuffed. Instead, the Arab League convened in Khartoum to formulate a consensus response that became known as “The 3 ... Read More
U.S.

Zoomers and the Constitution

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generational views on key social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. The topics probed include race relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of government. This last item, ... Read More
U.S.

Zoomers and the Constitution

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generational views on key social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. The topics probed include race relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of government. This last item, ... Read More

Battleground Arizona

At an August 11 Trump-campaign event in Mesa, Ariz., the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, noted in his remarks introducing Mike Pence that President Trump and the vice president “have visited the state of Arizona more than any other presidential administration in the history of our country,” adding: ... Read More

Battleground Arizona

At an August 11 Trump-campaign event in Mesa, Ariz., the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, noted in his remarks introducing Mike Pence that President Trump and the vice president “have visited the state of Arizona more than any other presidential administration in the history of our country,” adding: ... Read More