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Religion and Sports

Updated on April 1, 2013
Raising hands to God
Raising hands to God

Who is Gaining the Glory?

There is a ongoing debate amongest the members of my church. Are athletes that make public displays of their religion, glorifying God or themselves? My husband and I actually started this debate. We are sports fans, he is a former middle school coach, our three sons all played sports, and we prayed before games.

One night at Bible study, we commented on how great we thought it was to see a team of football players raise their hands to God after a game, and paint Blble verses under their eyes.

Immediately, several people jumped in and disagreed with us. They said that they couldn't stand that type of "showboat" Christianity, and said that they feel this is glory to themselves, rather than glory to God.

What do you think?

A Tennis Player's Testimony

Noted Christian Athletes

Listed below are some outwardly Christian athletes, and how they share their Christianity with the world.

  • Tim Tebow: Tim played for the University of Florida Gators football team, then joined the NFL,. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007. He grew up in a family of five children, raised by missionary parents. On the football field, he paints Bible verses under his eyes, and has been a leader in other players doing the same. He raises his hands after a touchdown, and I believe is sincere in his Christian beliefs. He has been criticized for repeatedly using the word "blessing" when interviewed.
  • Kurt Warner: Kurt's professional football career spanned over 15 years. During his professional career, he played for the Iowa Barnstormers, Amsterdam Admirals, St. Louis Rams, New York Giants, and the Arizona Cardinals. He won a "Man of the Year" award in 2008, and 2009. Kurt prays with his team mates after each game. In an interview he will openly speak of his blessings, and say "Thank you, Jesus." He founded a Christian charity in Arizona called the "First Things First Foundation."
  • Emmitt Smith: Emmitt played professional football from 1990 until 2004. He played for the Dallas Cowboys, and the Arizona Cardinals. He won numerous awards during his career, and is a 2010 inductee for the "Pro Football Hall of Fame." Smith is more known for quiet prayer, and "Gentle acts of kindness", but even he has been criticized for some comments he has made.
  • George Foreman: George is well known as a heavyweight boxing champion, and Olympic gold medalist. His popular "grills" are sold everywhere. He has ten children, five of whom are named George. In 1977 George Foreman became very ill after a fight, he prayed for God's help, and became a born-again Christian. After he retired from boxing, he became an ordained minister. He has worked with many charities, and shared his Christian experiences on television.
  • A.C. Green: A.C. played professional basketball for 16 years. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks. He also played college ball for Oregon State. A.C. Green is known for being very religious, and often quoting scripture. He runs youth camps, and promotes abstinence until marriage.
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Jackie is a retired american track and field star. During her career, she won three gold olympic medals, and also silver and bronze medals. She also played basketball and played for U.C.L.A while in college. She founded the charity, "The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation", and has worked with other charities, too. She has spoke publicly at Christian events.
  • Jeff Gordon: Jeff is a well known american professional race car driver. He has competed in Nascar since 1991, and is a USAC Triple Crown Champion. Jeff has talked in interviews about becoming a Christian after going to church with some other drivers in the 1990's. He has a charity, "The Jeff Gordan Foundation" which works with ill children. He tapes scriptures to his steering wheel before a race. Although he is a Christian, he has been in the tabloids in the past for extra marital affairs
  • Michael Chang: The tennis player credits his ability to God.

What Do You Think?

Do you believe athletes should publicly display their religion?

See results

Biblical Controversy

FOR - Psalms 7:17 "I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high."

MAYBE - 1 Corinthians 15:57 "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ".

AGAINST - Matthew 6:5 "And when you prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

One Nation Under God

America was founded as "One Nation Under God". As Americans we are so fortunate to live in a country where we have the right to openly display our beliefs. We have the right to go to any church we choose on Sunday. We also have the right to not go, if that is what we please.

Increasingly, the word "God" is being removed from our public buildings. Prayer is being taken out of schools. Christian athletes that openly display their beliefs are doing their thing to try to counteract this trend.

Whatever you feel about these athletes as individuals, I think most of you will agree that the freedom of religion that we have in this country is a "blessing" indeed.

I pray that this freedom is never taken away from us.


  1. Wikipedia - Online encyclopedia, athlete biographies.
  2. NBC Sports online post by Mike Florio, "Tim Tebow defends Urban Meyer, breaks record for using the word "blessing", article.
  3. Dallas sports day, 4/14/2010.  "Canton-bound Emmitt Smith continues to make Pensacola proud."
  4. Learning to Give, Jackie Joyner-Kersee informational paper by LaTasha Chaffin.
  5. Bleacher Report, Christianity in Football: Providing Role Models and Spreading Truth, by Tyler Rorem


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    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 5 years ago from Georgia, USA

      i wrote this hub before he went to the pros. While he always stands up for his Christianity, it seems that he is more low key now.

    • profile image

      Doc 5 years ago

      Only God knows a mans heart. I don't consider it religious or illreligious to do what Tim does. If it glorifies his creator or it just points to his creator, I think it is a good thing. If He is doing it to show how good he is, I feel sorry for him. We are all sinners saved by grace to do good works. I don't know any of these athletes personally. but as a fellow Christian I can understand the grueling garbage the enemy throws at us on a daily basis.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Still a controversial subject. I did not realize that college players could no longer put the verses under their eyes.

    • profile image

      Reabill 7 years ago

      I have long ago given up on most so called Christian atheletes and most American Christians who every Sunday intentionly violate the 4th commandent "to keep the Sabbath Day holy". I have more respect for the Atheists who don't pretend to be following Gods laws. Perhaps we should celebrate all those commit adultery if they claim to be Christian.

    • FrugallyHealthy profile image

      FrugallyHealthy 7 years ago from Brunswick, GA

      Great hub Susan. I think sometimes people get caught up in judging others ("Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the plank that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3) that they forget the MESSAGE that is being glorified. Recently SportsCenter was going over the new rules in college football and there is a new rule (affectionately known as the Tebow Rule) that states a player cannot write in the black tape under his eyes. When Yahoo! covered the same topic, they noted that after Tebow put John 3:16 on his tape over 3.6 million searches were done on Google of people trying to find out what it meant. That is witnessing. Whether Pastor, Jay, or Bible study believes so or not.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Amen, Jeremy. I agree!

    • profile image

      Jeremy Sisk 7 years ago

      I think it's great for a celebrity or athlete to promote Christianity as long as they don't let their actions affect their witness of Christ. They're is a saying that if you put a fish on your car it's a good idea not to be a rude driver or shoot birds at people.

      God needs publicity too. Give it to him.

    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Thank you for reading, Sis Pam, and loriamoore! I really feel that most of these athletes do have their hearts in the right place. One problem is that if they are ever tempted and fall, the media is just waiting to catch them.

    • profile image

      loriamoore 7 years ago

      My husband and I had this same discussion a while back, specifically about Tim Tebow. What we decided was that he wants to make sure he attributes his successes and gifts to the Lord instead of having the media and fans worship Tim Tebow. Good Hub.

    • profile image

      Sis Pam 7 years ago

      Great article, Susan!

      You are getting quite prolific with your Hubpages and your public witness for Jesus Christ! I've admired you not only because you are my older sister, but also for your character and creativity. I thank God that we are sisters both in the natural and eternal worlds. I look forward to reading your next article(s).

      Love, Sis Pam / Treysome's Mom