So asks the back cover of Don DeLillo’s beautiful and disturbing 1973 novel, End Zone. In the tenor of the times, this strange, dark story dealt with American dystopia and the threat of nuclear war. Today, even without the threat of nuclear war, football and religion are as entangled as ever.

On Monday night, Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Husain Abdullah received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after dropping to his knees and bowing in prayer after a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown.

According to NFL Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d), “Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.” Technically, the penalty seems justified, but the twitterverse exploded.  “What about Tim Tebow?” everyone asks.

Religious Discrimination in Employment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against anyone with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s religion.

Further, employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would put more than a minimal burden on the employer’s business operations. An employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment to allow an employee to practice his or her religion. The accommodations, themselves, must be offered on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Legal Twist and Turns

It might be possible to argue that the rules about how football is played are not terms and conditions of employment. The rules about how tennis is played, for example, are not subject to judicial review. Abdullah’s job is to play football. Unlike Ray Rice, he can still do that, and he still gets paid. The penalty did not take him off the schedule. It was just a detriment to the Chiefs in their game with the New England Patriots, which they won anyway.

However, the reason for the penalty, “unsportsmanlike conduct,” is an implicit criticism of the way that Abdullah does his job. It’s akin to telling a worker in the course of an annual review that he would be a much better employee if he did not pray in the office. That would be pretty clearly over the legal line.

It might also be possible to draw a distinction between required religious observances and ones that are volunteered.  Abdullah also fasts during Ramadan, a required observance. It would have been very difficult for the Chiefs to justify requiring Abdullah, as a condition of his employment, to eat during the day in order to maintain his strength.

It is a closer call with spontaneous expressions of joy. Employers can probably ask cube dwellers not to leap and shout, “Thank you Jesus,” on retrieving lost files. It startles the coworkers. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) seems to try to get to that issue.

Tebowing as Precedent

The real problem, however, is Tim Tebow.  Far from getting a flag, he became something of a darling of Christian conservatives for mid-game displays of piety. From a legal perspective, that is also probably the right result.

The NFL and the team accommodated his religious practice, even though against NFL rules, because it did not impose much of a burden on the business of playing football.

Reasonable accommodations also have to be offered on a nondiscriminatory basis. With respect to Husain Abdullah, they don’t appear to have been. That is why the NFL backed down and admitted by Tuesday, the day after the game, that the penalty had been a mistake.

Does the NFL Have Enough Problems Yet?

Let us take stock. So far, we have dog fighting, hitting women, hitting children, and a number of employment law problems. The latter include violations of minimum wage laws with respect to cheerleaders, allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and now religious discrimination.

Is God a football fan?  Don DeLillo suggests that it is a possibility in Texas. I won’t speculate. If so, within my own cultural/religious tradition, that would be called loving the sinner but hating the sin.

Anne Wallace, Esq.

By

Anne Wallace is a New York lawyer who writes extensively on legal and business issues. She also teaches law and business writing at the college and professional level. Anne graduated from Fordham Law School and Wellesley College.

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Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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Latest Episodes

October 12, 2021

In our latest episode, Nasir and Matt are covering the legal issues on Social Media. The average person spends most of their day on social media, whether they are scrolling for hours or publishing their own content. However, just because you publish your own content on Instagram does not equate to you owning that image….

September 28, 2021

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and when do I need one? In this episode, Nasir and Matt shares why you need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements, basic facts about NDA’s, and discuss about the infamous Jenner-Woods story. Having the right Non-Disclosure Agreement in place not only protects you and your business, but it also makes the…

July 14, 2021

Through a five-round championship bout, Matt travels to Texas from California to determine which state is better for business. Will it be a knockout with a clear winner or will it go to the scorecards?

June 16, 2021

Covered in this episode of Legally Sound Smart Business are some typical business mistakes blunders small businesses often make and how to avoid them. Blunder #1: Copying and pasting agreements It may sound like a good idea at the time, but this blunder comes with hidden pitfalls. Having an attorney draft terms that are specific…

February 4, 2021

How you terminate an employee can make the difference between a graceful transition to avoidable negative outcomes like a dramatic exit or even a lawsuit. We gathered a panel of experts and asked them – is there a “right way” to fire an employee? We would like to thank our guests for this episode: Amr…

December 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned nearly every aspect of life on its head, and that certainly holds true for the business world. In this episode, Matt and Nasir explain how the early days of the pandemic felt like the Wild West and how the shifting legal playing field left a lot open to interpretation and…

November 16, 2020

After plenty of ups and downs, our buyer has finally closed on the purchase of their business. While we’re marking this down in the ‘wins’ column, it never hurts to review the game tape. In this final episode, our hosts, Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha, return to the deal almost a year later to reflect…

September 15, 2020

The ink is drying on the signature line and things are looking great for our buyer. After so much hard work, the finish line is in sight and the cheering within ear shot.   Though the landlord is still serving friction, things seem safe to move forward and for now, our buyer will be keeping…

July 31, 2020

Though things are coming along well, the journey would not be interesting if it was purely smooth sailing. After our buyer opens escrow, they are forced to push the closing date back when suddenly a letter from an attorney was received claiming the business, we are buying has a trade mark on the name!  Now…

June 12, 2020

With frustration at an all-time high and professionalism at an all-time low, our friend the Buyer has “had it” with the Seller and quite frankly their lack of knowledge. At present our Buyer is rightfully concerned that the latest misstep from our loose-lipped Seller will threaten not only the entire operation of the businesses but…

May 11, 2020

As we go deeper into the buying process, we start to uncover more challenges from our seller and encounter some of the wrenches they are tossing our way. When we last left off in episode three our team was knee deep in due diligence for our buyer, had already penned and signed the Letter of…

April 4, 2020

One word–interloper! When a new mysterious broker enters the transaction and starts to kick up dust, Nasir and Matt take the reins. The seller signed off on the letter of intent (see episode 2), yet this “business broker” serves only friction and challenges by refusing to send financials, whilst demanding more of a firm commitment…

April 4, 2020

Just as most stories and deals start out, everyone is optimistic, idealistic and full of hope for clear skies. It’s a perfect outlook with a perfect setup for the ups and downs yet to come. Peek further behind the curtain and into the first steps of buying a business: the letter of intent. After the…

April 4, 2020

When a savvy buyer hears opportunity knocking to purchase a prime positioned business, she decides not to go it alone and taps in the professionals to help navigate what could potentially be a fruitful acquisition. “Behind the Buy” is a truly rare and exclusive peak into the actual process, dangers, pitfalls and achievements, that can…

August 7, 2019

GrubHub is subject to two “matters of controversy” that have likely become common knowledge to business owners: “fake” orders and unfriendly microsites.

May 28, 2019

In this podcast episode, Matt and Nasir breakdown the legal issues of the subscription industry’s business on the internet. Resources A good 50-state survey for data breach notifications as of July 2018. California Auto-Renewal Law (July 2018) Privacy Policies Law by State Why Users of Ashley Madison May Not Sue for Data Breach [e210] Ultimate…

March 12, 2019

In recording this episode’s topic on the business buying process, Matt’s metaphor, in comparing the process to getting married probably went too far, but they do resemble one another. Listen to the episode for legal advice on buying a business.

December 3, 2018

Nasir and Matt return to discuss the different options available to companies looking to raise funds through general solicitation and crowdfunding. They discuss the rules associated with the various offerings under SEC regulations and state laws, as well as more informal arrangements. The two also discuss the intriguing story about a couple who raised over…

July 24, 2018

Flight Sim Labs, a software add-on creator for flight simulators, stepped into a PR disaster and possibly some substantial legal issues when it allegedly included a Trojan horse of sorts as malware to combat pirating of its $100 Airbus A320 software. The hidden test.exe file triggered anti-virus software for good reason as it was actually…

April 17, 2018

Attorneys Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha examine Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings about the state of Facebook. The two also discuss Cambridge Analytica and the series of events that led to the congressional hearings, the former and current versions of Facebook’s Terms of Service, and how businesses should be handling data privacy. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR:…

March 10, 2018

The Trump presidency has led to a major increase in ICE immigration enforcement. It’s critical for business owners to both comply with and know their rights when it comes to an ICE audit or raid. Nasir, Matt, and Pasha Law attorney Karen McConville discuss how businesses can prepare for potential ICE action and how to…

February 5, 2018

New years always bring new laws. Effective January 1, 2018, California has made general contractors jointly liable for the unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and other benefit payments of a subcontractor. Nasir and Matt discuss who the new law applies to and how this affects all tiers in the general contractor-subcontractor relationship. Click here to learn…

January 2, 2018

With a seemingly endless amount of new mattress options becoming available, it is unsurprising that the market has become increasingly aggressive. As companies invest in more innovative solutions to get in front of customers, review sites, blogs and YouTube videos have moved to the forefront of how customers are deciding on their mattresses and how…

December 7, 2017

In recent months explosive amounts of high profile allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and varying acts of inappropriate behavior have transcended every sector of our professional world. With a deluge from Hollywood and politics, and the private workforce, accusations have inundated our feeds and mass media. This harassment watershed has not only been felt within…

November 16, 2017

If you are not familiar with the EB-5 program started in 1990 to give green cards to certain qualified investors in the United States, then you may not have been alone a few years ago. Currently, the EB-5 program has since exploded since its inception and now hits its quotas consistently each year. The program…

October 10, 2017

Government requests come in multiple forms. They can come in as requests for client information or even in the form of investigating your company or your employees. Requests for Client Information General Rule to Follow Without understanding the nuances of criminal and constitutional law and having to cite Supreme Court cases, any government requests for…

August 24, 2017

Nasir and Matt suit up to talk about everything pertaining to employee dress codes. They discuss the Federal laws that govern many rules for employers, as well as state specific nuances in California and other states. The two also emphasize the difficulty in identifyingreligious expression in dress and appearance, how gender-related dress codes have evolved…

June 28, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

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April 3, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Matt go in depth with the subscription box business. They discuss where subscription box companies have gone wrong(4:30), the importance of a specifically tailored terms and conditions(6:30), how to structure return policies (11:45), product liability concerns (14:45),the offensive and defensive side of intellectual property (19:00),…

February 1, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the suit against Apple that resultedfrom a car crashed caused by the use of FaceTime while driving. They also discuss howforeseeable use of apps can increase liability for companies. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Hi and welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business! I’m Nasir Pasha. MATT: And I’m Matt Staub. Two attorneys…

January 5, 2017

The guys kick in the new year by first discussing Cinnabon’s portrayal of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia soon after her death, as well as other gaffes involving Prince and David Bowie. They alsotalk about right of publicity claims companies could be held liable for based on using someone’s name or likeness for commercial gain.

December 22, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the recent incidentat a Victoria’s Secret store where the store manager kicked out all black women after one black woman was caught shoplifting. They then each present dueling steps businesses should take when employees are accused of harassment.

December 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt return to talk about the different types of clients that may have outstanding invoices and how businesses can convert unpaid bills to getting paid.

November 10, 2016

After a long break, Nasir and Matt are back to discuss a Milwaukee frozen custard stand that is now revising it’s English only policy for employees. The guys also discuss how similar policies could be grounds for discrimination and what employers can do to revise their policies.

October 6, 2016

The guys discuss the new California law that allows actors to request the removal of their date of birth and birthdays on their IMDB page and why they think the law won’t last. They also discuss how age discrimination claims arise for business owner.

September 29, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the racial discrimination claims surroundingAirbnb and how it’s handled the situation. They also discuss some practical tips for businesses experiencing similar issues.

September 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss whyAmazon seller accounts are getting suspended and banned without notice and how business owners can rectify this situation through a Corrective Action Plan.

August 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the accusations surroundingfashion giant Zararipping off the designs of independent artists like Tuesday Bassen and howsmaller companies can battle the industry giants.

August 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss Brave Software’s ad replacing technology that has caught the eye of almost every national newspaper and has a potential copyright infringement claim looming. They also welcome digital marketing expert Matt Michaelree to speak on the specifics of what Brave is attempting to do and whether it has the answers moving forward.

July 28, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. They also talk aboutthe importance of sexual harassment training and properly handling such allegations in the office.

July 15, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the changes at Starbucks that have led to many disgruntled employees and customers.

June 23, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the criminal charges facing FedExinvolving the alleged transportation of illegal drugs. They also talk about how business owners should address working with customers that may be breaking the law.

June 15, 2016

The guys return after a long break to discuss why Yahoo is auctioning off over 3,000 patents and how this decision will affect the longevity of the company.

May 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the increase in the salary thresholdfor exempt employees and how employerscan try to avoid paying overtime as a result.

May 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the Baltimore law that makes it very difficult to operate food trucks in the city. They also discuss all the legal restrictions tohaving a food truck.

May 11, 2016

Matt listens to Nasir recap the developing battle in his hometown of Vandalia, Ohio over whether a Dunkin Donuts can move into a location in close proximity to a local favorite donut shop. They then discusswhether the issue is more legal or personal.

May 9, 2016

The guys kick off the week by discussing a Nevada employee who is claiming she was fired for not supporting the Scientology beliefs of her employer.

April 27, 2016

The guys discuss the massive floods in Houston,how employers responded, and why one meteorologist became a local hero. They also discuss the steps businesses should take in preparing for storms outside the workplace.

April 20, 2016

The guys discuss the boycott of Amazon over the products of an unnamed presidential candidate. They also talkabout how a business should handle a boycott and whether it’s possible to exit one unscathed.

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