The scene was the Chicago Bulls’ locker room. Michael Jordan and crew had just won the National Basketball Association championship. Jubilant players and coaches hugged and high-fived. But before the champagne showers began, the team knelt in a huddle, and under the eye of live TV recited the Lord’s Prayer.
As Dan Rather said, the camera never blinks. But it seems the rest of the news media does—with regularity—when it comes to religion. Indeed, if not for the live broadcast of the Bulls’ postgame prayer, we might not know it ever happened. If the sports pages mentioned the prayer at all, it was in a passing phrase, buried in the flood of postgame analysis.
Why the blackout on belief? No doubt hostility toward religion exists in some journalistic circles. But perhaps a more common reason is that journalists, like most Americans, believe religion is “a personal thing.”
Writing in Sports Illustrated last February, columnist Rick Reilly complained about athletes making their faith public. While willing to “put up with” the occasional “thank the Lord,” Reilly was offended by the sight of professional football players from opposing teams gathering after the game to pray. “Athletes are entitled to freedom of religion like anyone else,” he wrote, “but let them exercise it on their own time.” He suggested that the National Football League “curtail” the midfield meetings or that television ignore them.
Obviously, faith in Jesus Christ is a personal thing. But personal isn’t the same as private. Christian faith was not meant to be limited to believers’ “own time.” It should overflow into every area of life.
One recitation of the Lord’s Prayer may not qualify the Bulls as a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. But it does show that at least some of the team’s players value something loftier than wins and losses, as do scores of other professional athletes.
That’s a story that belongs in the sports section.
By Ken Sidey.
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