Praying in the NFL

Everyone seems to be up in arms over the NFL and its policy (or lack thereof) when it comes to the posture of their athletes during the playing of the National Anthem. Over the past couple of years, it’s become more and more vogue for players to “take a knee” during the traditional standing for the anthem. It seems to have begun with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and headed south from there.

I say, “headed south,” because it’s become a huge distraction. One of my favorite Sunday afternoon pastimes is to come home from worship, relax in front of my wide screen, and watch my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers chase the old pigskin for three hours. This past Sunday, it was certainly less than fulfilling.

One Lonely Figure

Not only did my boys in black and gold perform with considerably less finesse than usual, they lost in overtime to the lowly Bears. But that wasn’t the worst part. My guys didn’t even show up to the field for the anthem. One lonely figure stood at the entranceway to the locker room with his hand over his heart (offensive lineman and former Army Ranger, Alejandro Villanueva). The team was told to stay in the locker room to avoid team disunity—bad move—maybe.

Frankly, I didn’t care so much when a few disgruntled players from other teams drew the ire of fans by taking the knee. But when my own fan favorites weenied out by hiding in the locker room, I was highly disappointed. I’ve been arduously watching the Steelers since I was thirteen (fifty-four years). For some reason, I just figured they were above such shenanigans. I was wrong.

“The protests became the show…”

Instead of the usual, good natured bantering back and forth by fans, Sunday’s social media exploded with name calling and badmouthing over the efficacy of protesting in this manner. Even my lovely Bride refused to watch the game (and she’s a bigger football fan than I happen to be). The protests became the show, and the games were a distant second to the off-the-field debates.

I’m not exactly sure why the NFL has allowed this to go on. These are the people whose shield is fashioned after the nation’s flag. Check it out sometime. It’s red, white, and blue with a field of white stars. These guys who are taking a knee are wearing the flag on their uniforms. It seems a bit ironic to say the least.

The thing that really gets me, however, is the coverage of these protests. When a player kneels on the sidelines during the anthem, the cameras are all over him. The people who provide this coverage are the same folks who refuse to show the players who take the knee together following each game to pray in the middle of the field. I find that a tad hypocritical. They don’t want to offend anyone by showing those nasty prayer warriors. If anyone is offended by the guys dissing the anthem, however—well, that’s just tough.

Prayer out… Protest in…

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

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