Texas Christian University junior quarterback Kenny Hill was penalized during last Saturday's game after he scored a touchdown and performed a religious gesture that referees ruled to be taunting.
After Hill reached the endzone on a 5-yard rush that gave the Horned Frogs the temporary 27-20 lead over the Arkansas Razorbacks with just over 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, he celebrated just as he has done before — by performing the American Sign Language gesture signifying "Rising Kings."
After the touchdown, Hill raised his left hand and performed the one-hand version of the ASL for "rise." Then he performed the sign for "kings."
Despite the religious connotation behind Hill's celebration, the officiating crew threw the penalty flag and penalized the Horned Frogs 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because it was thought that Hill's celebration was a taunting throat-slash gesture.
According to Fox Sports, the penalty against Hill allowed the Razorbacks to have a shortened field position to start their next drive, which helped them come back to tie the game with just over a minute left in regulation. Arkansas would go on to win the game with a victory in double overtime.
As Hill performed the gesture quickly and it started around the neck area, it is understandable how the referees could have misconstrued Hill's action as a throat slash. However, TCU head coach Gary Patterson confirmed to reporters earlier this week that Hill's celebration was his "Rising Kings" celebration.
"It's sign language for honoring the kings," Patterson explained, saying that Hill considered it to be a part of his beliefs.
Hill has performed the "Rising Kings" touchdown celebration before but has never been penalized. But even if it had been explained to last Saturday's officials that Hill's celebration was a religious gesture, Patterson said that the flag still would not have been picked up. He added that the situation might have been preventable had the referees been informed of Hill's touchdown celebration before the game.
"It's one of those things where it's too bad it happened," Patterson added, according to the Star-Telegram. "We all need to learn from it, try not to do it again."
According to Patterson, former TCU quarterback and now the starting quarterback for NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, Andy Dalton, also used to celebrate with the same gesture and Dalton was never penalized.
"Andy Dalton used to do this. He did that," Patterson added. "If you're going to call it, you probably should have been consistent."