Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s shocking cardiac arrest last year during a Monday night football game sparked a nationwide prayer wave, with players and sportscasters encouraging the public to invoke God’s name on Hamlin’s behalf.
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The stunning outpouring, which preceded the Asbury Revival and a series of mass baptisms, left Jeffrey Scholes, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor of religious studies, stating that faith-based commentary and prayer on TV amid Hamlin’s health crisis was “kind of stunning.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Scholes said at the time. “It looked more like ‘The 700 Club’ than it did ESPN for a bit there.”
It should be noted that faith in sports — and particularly the National Football League (NFL) — isn’t necessarily new. Still, in recent years, players have seemingly become more open and bold about their Christian ideals.
Famed football coach Tony Dungy, whose own open devotion to Christianity has long been on display, recently told CBN News that football’s influence and cultural patterns are coalescing to open up more opportunities for players to candidly share their faith.
“Football has become the No. 1 sport in our society today,” Dungy said. “There’s so much emphasis on it, but the other side of the coin is our, our world is … up in the air. [People] don’t know what’s going on. They have questions, but they come to football for that kind of sanctuary.”
Recognizing the power and influence that come with such a massive platform, some of these faithful players are becoming more bold and vocal.
“These young players have said … ‘I can use this platform and I can let people know what’s important to me and I can let people know about my faith in Jesus Christ,'” he said. “And it’s something that, for a long time, we kind of tried to keep under the radar. But we’ve had some very outspoken people.”
Watch Dungy explain:
He mentioned the late Reggie White who once vocally shared his beliefs. And also noted C.J. Stroud, the Houston Texans quarterback who recently gave “all glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” during an interview.
Dungy also referenced Brock Purdy, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who will be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII. These stars, he said, are showing people for what they truly stand.
“These young guys are coming in and they’re not ashamed of the Gospel,” Dungy said.
Dungy’s comments to CBN News came as he plans to hand out the Bart Starr Award to Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Jr. The Bart Starr Award is given to an NFL player who “best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.”
“It’s voted on by the players, which is very meaningful to them,” Dungy said. “It’s given to the person who shows extreme leadership, and community service.”
He described Fitzpatrick as being a man who truly fits this description.
“He was traded from the Miami Dolphins, No. 1 draft choice, played at University of Alabama, won a national championship. So, had all these accolades,” Dungy said, noting Fitzpatrick’s selection is well-deserved. “[He has] just the heart of a servant.”
Dungy said he’s been fortunate to have coached five of the men who have received the award and has, for the past decade, been among the pool of people who get to present the award to the annual winner.
He will join Athletes in Action for the Christian ministry’s 2024 Super Bowl Breakfast Feb. 10 at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas to present the award to Fitzpatrick.
“The breakfast itself is a Gospel outreach,” Dungy said, noting there’s a presentation of biblical truth amid the celebrations surrounding the Super Bowl.
It’s an event that attracts 5,000 to 6,000 people who will hear a lot about football but, more importantly, will hear players discuss their faith.
“Player after player will talk about their relationship with the Lord, maybe how it started,” Dungy said. “There’s just been some unbelievable stories that have come through this, and it’s a Gospel outreach letting people know that Christ is the answer to a lot of our problems, and there’s always a Gospel invitation at the end.”
Find out more about the 2024 Super Bowl Breakfast here.
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