Hit with a lawsuit from Jerry Falwell’s Baptist college, the NCAA said Friday that football players can kneel in prayer on the field after a big play as long as they don’t make a spectacle of themselves.
The dispute involved the NCAA’s newly enforced no-gloating rule, which was designed to stop in-your-face showboating and other unsportsmanlike displays in the end zone. NCAA officials had said the rule prohibited on-field kneeling and praying.
A day after Liberty University went to court to block the rule, however, the NCAA issued a “clarification” and said a player can briefly kneel in prayer.
Vince Dooley, chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee, said it was never the intent of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to ban on-field prayer.
“However, overt acts which may be associated with prayer, such as kneeling, may not be done in a way that is delayed, excessive or prolonged in an attempt to draw attention to oneself,” Dooley wrote in a memo Friday to game officials.
In response to the clarification, Liberty dropped its lawsuit, which had claimed the NCAA ban was religious discrimination.
The rule bans players from removing helmets, taunting the crowd or opponents, and posing or dancing after plays. It also bans “any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself.”