Religion and sports don’t mix
Growing up playing sports in small-town Texas, where white Christians were the majority, a prayer was often a prelude to game day. While I was not particularly religious, I paid no mind and thought of it as the norm.
Even in major league sports, like the National Football League and National Basketball Association, a locker room prayer is a pregame ritual for some teams.
Unlike a small town in Texas though, major league sports are made up of a diverse group of athletes. So, a one-size-fits-all mold doesn’t always work in a locker room full of athletes from other religions, and that’s the problem.
The only way sports and religion can co-exist is if all religions are noticed, and even then there are some players who simply do not practice any religion at all. So, there should be a separation of sports and religion because worrying about including everyone is not a matter of being politically correct, it’s a matter of respect.
If players want to get together on their own before a game and recite a prayer, then they should be able to do so freely, but it should not be a team-mandated obligation. Allowing religion to have a place in team functions and sports gets to be too dicey.
Back when Tim Tebow was still the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he would celebrate a touchdown by kneeling and bowing his head. Around the same time, Husain Abdullah, a Kansas City Chiefs’ safety who is Muslim, was penalized for celebrating an interception by kneeling and bowing his head.
The NFL later came out and said that Abdullah should not have been flagged, but the damage had already been done and whether it was true, the NFL looked hypocritical and bigoted.
And that’s the thing: It’s not as if these organizations are willing to allow only Christianity into their midst because they want to be harmful or spiteful; likely, it comes down to a lack of understanding.
When Doc Rivers was a coach for the Orlando Magic, his team was led in prayer before every game until he noticed something wrong: He saw that one of his players, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, was not comfortable with the custom. Rivers did away with the prayer.
Getting rid of team-functioned religious activities will be the fairest way to include everyone. Those who want to practice their faiths will still be able to do so on their own time and will not affect the others who do not want to participate.