Instructor Carolyn May
November 21, 2014
As Fort Myers High School’s, senior, tight end, Sam Turner scored his first touchdown in his high school career, he went to the middle of the end zone and kneeled down, bowed his head, and had a brief prayer.As soon as he took a knee, he was given a fifteen-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. This penalty has left many people upset and unsettled, so many that the story soon was talked about across the nation and was broadcasted across many major news stations.
“There’s been tons of support from my family and friends,” Sam said. “They are proud of me that I stood firm in my faith.” I agree with this, people should stand behind him, he did nothing wrong. Actually, I believe he did something right. Ever since we were little kids, we’ve always been told to stand up for what we believe in, and I think Sam, and his supporters, did just that. It’s shocking that he was penalized for what he did. Although, “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,” as said by an FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) spokesman, praying should be an exception of this rule. On that same note, he wasn’t trying to focus attention on himself, he was actually doing the exact opposite, he was putting the focus on God and his teammate that had passed away. “I said ‘thank you, God, for this talent you’ve blessed me with,’” Sam said in an interview, and then gave a quick honor to Greenie“JoJo” Brunson, a teammate that had passed away, and the life he had. Brunson was murdered in a drive by shooting in April 2013, and this year would have been his senior year.
Other sources say that he was penalized for excessive celebration. The Florida High School Athletic Association and the South Gulf Football Officials Association said the senior tight end was flagged for violating Rule 9-5, Article 1 (c) of the 2014 National Federation of State High School Associations football rulebook.The section, which covers non-contact, 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.” According to the league, any gestures lasting more than five seconds are considered ‘show boating’. After watching the video of Sam Turner multiple times, the penalty flag was thrown as soon as he took a knee, well within five seconds. So, this isn’t a valid excuse to justify what happened.
Gil Whitmore, the president of the South Gulf association whose members worked Friday’s game, said the unsportsmanlike conduct rule is a difficult one for officials to navigate.”It’s a tough spot to be in,” he said. “We don’t know all these players individually so we have no idea what’s genuine and what’s not.” It doesn’t seem that hard to me to determine what’s unsportsmanlike and what’s not. He’s praying! That’s not unsportsmanlike in any way! He’s using his rights, just like any other person in this country should be able to do. As far as the second part of the quote, I’m an avid sports fan and I’ve never seen a player that has prayed and it not be “genuine”, so don’t know if he was saying this just to back up what the referee did, or what, because any logical person knows that someone’s not going to fake praying.
According to Dan Deluca from The Clarion-Ledger, Corey Sobers, a public relations specialist for the FHSAA, said the organization has no argument with the penalty called on Turner Friday. Sobers said that he didn’t talk to the official that gave the penalty, but it wasn’t because of him praying, or kneeling, but for Turner’s gesture with his arms. This doesn’t make sense. A player can jump up and down and yell and act crazy after the score a touchdown, but Sam Turner couldn’t point to the sky to thank God for his talents and to remember one of his fallen teammates? This just doesn’t make sense to me. The rules that pertain to this subject are corrupt.
Two comments about the penalty against Sam really puts this whole topic into perspective, “Football players can dance, strut, and otherwise act stupid after every play, yet we penalize a man for saying a prayer?” Going to the middle of the end zone, and praying, in my opinion, is more humble than jumping up and down and yelling. It shows that he has more class, yet he got penalized. In an interview, he was asked if he gets another touchdown, does he have any plans for what ensues. He responded with, “I may have to do it on the sidelines.” This shows how humble and how much of a team player he really is, he realized he cost his team fifteen yards, so next time he won’t do the same. However, I don’t think that he should have to do it from the sidelines, he should be able to do exactly what he did the first time. More people should stand up for him and his actions and petition to get the rule changed.
The other comment is, “This player didn’t ask any other team member to pray, he just personally gave his thanks. Where did freedom of religion go?” Really, where did it go? Why isn’t praying in the end zone an exception to the rules?How can someone get penalized for expressing their religion? The first amendment of our constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” so how can there not be an exception in the rule book of having someone pray in the end zone. It seems absurd and ridiculous that he got penalized for exercising the first amendment of The Constitution of the United States. People of higher rank need to step in and make changes to the rules.
Some people, from the comments that I have read on this subject, say that, since Fort Myers ended up winning the game 49-0, this penalty didn’t matter and people need to quit arguing about it. If people didn’t voice their opinion on this, and just let it happen, it would happen again and again. It’s one of our rights, he was exercising it, and there is no way that he should be penalized for this. If we don’t exercise our rights, I believe that they could be taken away from us. It’s kind of like voting, if only one third of people vote, eventually our right to vote could get taken away from us. If people don’t stand up for Sam exercising his right of freedom of religion, it could get taken away from us.
It’s not the referee that I am voicing my opinion at, he was doing his job, and he enforced the rules. I think that it’s the rule makers of high school football that is at fault. Sam Sirianni Jr. said, “I bet the official doesn’t feel good about throwing it, but I don’t begrudge the official.” I agree, the referee has to do what he has to do to enforce the rules, he did the right thing. If he let one player break the rule, he would have to let every player do the same.
No matter who is at fault for the penalty given to Sam Turner for praying in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, he was, by no means, in the wrong. This topic has definitely agitated and made many people become unsettled. There should definitely be changes to the rules of high school football, or wherever there are rules that are alike it, so that a player can have freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
Braun, Michael. “Fort Myers Player Gets Support after End Zone Prayer Is Flagged.” Fort Myers Player Gets Support after End Zone Prayer Is Flagged. N.p., 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
“Flagged for Faith: Teen Penalized for Prayer after Touchdown.” Flagged for Faith: Teen Penalized for Prayer after Touchdown. Fox News Insider, 9 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://insider.foxnews.com/2014/11/09/flagged-faith-high-school-football-player-penalized-praying-after-td>.
“Fort Myers (Fla.) High Player Flagged for Unsportsmanlike Conduct for Praying after TD.” USA Today High School Sports. USA Today High School Sports, 2 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://usatodayhss.c DeLuca, Dan. “Officials: Florida High School Player Not Penalized for Prayer.”
Officials: Florida High School Player Not Penalized for Prayer. USA Today High School Sports, 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.clarionledger.com/story/sports/high-school/2014/11/04/florida-player-prayer-penalty/18454159/>.om/2014/high-school-football-prayer-touchdown-penalty-fort-myers-florida>.
“High School Player “Flagged” For Kneeling to Thank God After Scoring a Touchdwon.” Conservative Post. Conservative Post, 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://conservativepost.com/high-school-player-flagged-for-kneeling-to-thank-god-after-scoring-a-touchdwon/>.