So Colin Kaepernick is now suing the National Football League for collusion to deny him a job for kneeling during the national anthem. As was true with Michael Sam, the activist gay player who claimed owners didn’t want him after he was drafted and released, Kaepernick isn’t playing because he’s not worth signing – period.
So what is it that keeps Kaepernick in the media spotlight? They like him. Multi-millionaire celebrities who wear Che Guevara T-shirts and socks attacking the police as racist pigs are celebrated by reporters. They feel your pain about racist America.
But what if you’re an athlete with passionate beliefs about Jesus Christ? That, folks, is a bridge too far. That’s a name that probably should be avoided in mixed company.
They made it almost toxic with Tim Tebow. Liberal radio host Bill Press told him to “shut the f— up” about his “Lord and savior.” Press called him a “disgrace.” Undeniably, he was voicing the opinion of many journalists.
But not all. Usually, reporters are just uncomfortable with the subject. Take a new ESPN profile of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and his remarkable decision to pass up a long-term contract and play on a year-by-year “franchise tag.” In Kevin van Valkenburg’s article, faith didn’t bubble up until paragraph 17. Cousins said he told Redskins executive Bruce Allen “ I prayed about it and said, 'Lord, what do you want to do?'"
Faith is central to Cousins. In a speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Cousins explained "I just didn't feel a peace about signing a long-term contract. I think the Lord communicates to us in many ways, and one of those ways is through his peace. I just didn't feel a peace. I do believe that the Lord, at least in my life, he likes to use one-year contracts, not long-term contracts, if you will."
Cousins has a dramatic story of his ascent to a starting job in pro football. ESPN also noted that when he couldn’t get a spot on a college football team, his minister father told him, "Are you going to try and control your future, or are you ready to surrender your future to the Lord and let him do as he pleases?"
ESPN can’t really handle the spin on this ball. The website Get Religion, which often notices clumsy reporting on religion, pointed out that this long article never included the words “Jesus” or “church” or “Christian.”
Superstar Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who won the first game in the World Series, has also spurred this awkwardness. An August story in the Los Angeles Times reported on his marriage to his wife Ellen, which was followed soon after by a trip to Zambia to work with orphans. Why? “It was always on her heart,” he said, adding, “It wasn’t on my radar and I knew when I married her that it was going to involve me, so we went over there the first time three weeks after we got married. And it does. It changes you.”
“It was on her heart” is Christian lingo, and the Kershaws then wrote a book titled Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself. They wrote “The battle to maintain a Christ-centered identity is the most worthy fight we will face.” But you wouldn’t know that from the newspaper account, which just avoided the entire religion angle.
Journalists in the last year have lamented a lack of role models for youth, and properly so. Why not then spotlight the athletes whose Christianity is their inspiration? There are many stories out there, waiting to be told.