Arguably the most watched form of entertainment in America, Sports Entertainment is becoming a source of advertisement for religions. You cannot watch a sporting event today without some display of faith from one of the athletes. Is this acceptable? Do expressions of religion have any place in the sports arena? I say yes!
Religion and football go together in America, as players often become as famous for what they do on Sunday morning as on Monday night. I believe you should never be ashamed of your faith or even shy about it. We see athletes displaying their beliefs when they score a touchdown, hit a homerun or make a clutch basket. America is such a great country because we can believe in whatever we want and express that belief in any way. In light of his recent release from the New York Jets, Tim Tebow is a perfect symbol of someone who displays his religious beliefs. His homily press conferences or his kneeling in a game (more than playing in it) has become a national parody of what Christians take seriously. Some see Tebow and say “he’s displaying ‘too much religion.’” But, do we tell men, who kiss their wives, you are displaying too much love for your wife? Do we tell Veterans, who fly the American flag at their house, you are displaying too much patriotism? No.
Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos and became a lightning rod for both fans and critics when he began kneeling on the field to pray after scoring touchdowns, and praising God during post-game press conferences.
“If you’re married and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife ‘I love you’ the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity?”’ he said in an ESPN interview. “And that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ is that it is the most important thing in my life. So anytime I get an opportunity to tell Him that I love Him or am given an opportunity to shout Him out on national TV, I’m gonna take that opportunity.”
People who display religion don’t do it to hurt anyone, they don’t do it as a publicity stunt nor do they do it to please other people. They do it for various reasons and Tim Tebow is not the only NFL star who displays religion.
Ray Lewis, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker, has always been an emotional, vocal leader who doesn’t shy away from displaying his religious beliefs. He has been voted to 13 Pro Bowls and was named the Most Valuable Player following the Ravens’ 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl. Known for his ferocious hits, Lewis has matured into one of the league’s greatest leaders, providing guidance to teammates both on the field and in their private lives. He says he learned leadership through Christ’s teachings, which emphasize the importance of servitude. One of his favorite scriptures is Mark 9:35. “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” Asked to describe the tenants of his leadership, Lewis said: master your craft, help others get better, spread the Word of God and live genuinely so others will know your words are true.
Jay Feely and his wife Rebecca are among the most devout Christians in the NFL. They have held Bible studies at their home, mentored younger teammates and volunteered in their community throughout his career; Feely also says a prayer before each kick. The veteran said once he’s lined up his kick, he takes a short moment to be with God and remind himself of the strength and confidence the Lord gives him every day of his life. One scripture he would whisper to himself was from the disciple Paul in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Troy Polamalu is a seven-time Pro Bowl safety who ranks among the hardest hitters in the league. Always around the ball, this Steelers playmaker is also one of the league’s most religious players. Polamalu is an Orthodox Christian, which is the Eastern wing of the early Christian church, which split into the Orthodox and Catholic churches in 1054. Polamalu, who came from a Catholic and Protestant background, and his wife Theodora, who came from a Muslim and Protestant background, converted to Orthodoxy in 2007.
Very soft spoken off the field, Polamalu is known as a person who takes his beliefs seriously. He keeps a book nearby called “Counsels From the Holy Mountain”’ which contains letters and homilies from a monk, Elder Ephraim, who Troy has described as his spiritual father. He told the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette,
“Orthodoxy is like an abyss of beauty that’s just endless. I have read the Bible many times. But after fasting, and being baptized Orthodox, it’s like reading a whole new Bible. You see the depth behind the words so much more clearly.”
So, people use religion for many things that affect their lives, they use it for strength, encouragement, motivation, guidance and some use it as a guideline to live their lives. One thing that we have to realize is that society is changing and as we evolve as a culture, society will continue to change. We don’t have to believe what other people believe and we don’t have to like it, but the least we could do is respect it and know that religion will continue to be a part of sports.