During the first centuries of Christianity, Christians were thrown to lions in arenas to be jeered by mocking crowds. Today, Christian athletes face the taunts of a media strongly opposed to their faith.
New York Times sports reporter Jere Longman doesn't approve of a certain Olympic female track and field athlete. His piece on the front of Sunday's sports section, "For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image," rubbed in the fact that Jones hasn't won an Olympic medal, casts doubt on whether she will do so on Wednesday, and sneeringly claimed that Jones "will be whatever anyone wants her to be -- vixen, virgin, victim -- to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses." Even worse: She's a Christian and fan of Tim Tebow.
A photo caption read: "Lolo Jones has received more attention than any other American track and field athlete based on what some have called a cynical marketing strategy that is long on hyperbole and short on achievement."
Jere Longman's Wednesday front-page story transmitted rants from Socialist Party opponents of the right-leaning, Bush-supporting Sarkozy, accusing him of being "President Bling Bling" and promoting a national "selfishness" that seeped into the players' psyches.
On Thursday, reporter Steven Erlanger handled sticky issues of race, patriotism and football failure in "Racial Undertones Emerge in Reactions to France's Exit From the World Cup," and also relayed criticism of Sarkozy, just the way the Times did during Sarkozy's successful 2007 presidential campaign.
While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as "scum," "little troublemakers" and "guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain," according to news reports.
Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team's loss had become racially charged.
"There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened," she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing party, according to news reports. "Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation."
She criticized Mr. Sarkozy's handling of a debate on "national identity," warning that "all democrats and all republicans will be lost" in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. "We're building a highway for the National Front," she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen.