This feature about fired ESPN staffer who became Catholic priest gets religion — half of it anyway

This feature about fired ESPN staffer who became Catholic priest gets religion — half of it anyway

A reader drew our attention to a Sports Business Journal feature on the former ESPN staffer fired in 2012 for his “Chink in the Armor” headline about Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American point guard who recently won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors.

“One bad headline cost him his job at ESPN,” the story’s headline notes. “The priesthood brought healing.”

It’s a compelling profile that traces Anthony Federico’s journey “from the worst night of his life to the priesthood.”

The Sports Business Journal opens by revisiting the 2012 controversy:

You probably remember the story. A young ESPN employee, he wrote a headline for the company’s mobile app that many viewed as a racial slur directed at NBA player Jeremy Lin.

Federico’s life has taken an abrupt turn in the ensuing seven years. In June, he was ordained as a Catholic priest and assigned to a parish in Cheshire, Conn., just 15 miles from Bristol.

Seven years removed from the incident, Federico said memories from that night still hurt on occasion.

“But I’m free now,” he said. “I feel great healing and closure. I don’t have any ill will toward anyone in that time of my life.”

The writer does a really nice job of letting Federico explain — in his own words — his road from sports media to the clergy.

It all started over lunch at his new job:

During his lunch hour, he strolled around downtown Stamford, a walk that would take him by St. John the Evangelist Basilica, which had a daily noon Mass. Federico described his upbringing as more of a cultural Catholic than a practicing one — so much so that he didn’t realize that Catholic Mass is celebrated every day.

“On the first day, I walked past it and thought it looked cool,” Federico said. “On the second day, I walked past it again. Then — how biblical — on the third day, I decided to go in and see for myself what’s going on.”

Federico felt so moved by the experience that attending the noon Mass became part of his daily routine. He started bringing curious co-workers with him — most of whom were not Catholic — and they went out afterward to talk about the Mass and Catholicism. He would go home to learn about Catholic teachings so that he could explain some of the Mass’ rituals to his co-workers.

After a year and a half, he felt an intense calling to become a priest. 

“I started to realize that I was hungry for something more in life — something different than sports media, something that would have a more lasting impact on the world,” he said.

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One F-word appears (repeatedly) in ESPN's profile of Golden State star Stephen Curry, but another doesn't

One F-word appears (repeatedly) in ESPN's profile of Golden State star Stephen Curry, but another doesn't

With the NBA Finals starting tonight, ESPN has published an in-depth feature on "Joy and secret rage: How Steph Curry ignites the Warriors."

The story explores the role of fun and joy in the success of the Golden State Warriors star and his team.

Those familiar with Curry's Christian background might be curious if the F-word makes an appearance in this thought-provoking piece.

Nope, it doesn't — if you were thinking of the word "faith."

But interestingly enough, another F-word is used — even out of the mouth of Curry — in this story. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let's consider a key section of the feature that sets the scene early:

As Steve Kerr is to Stephen Curry, so is Curry to Kerr. It was a revelation that came early in Kerr's first season as Warriors coach. And so mere months into his tenure in Oakland, Kerr decided the dream culture he desired would embody the star player at the very center of it. They would strive to make one of Curry's defining traits their cornerstone. It would be a constant, felt in the practice facility (where music thumps) and film sessions (where jokes fly) and far beyond. It would be one of the few qualities that, in the age of analytics, remained difficult to tally: happiness.

Happiness, huh?

Might Curry's faith have something to do with that?

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ESPN tells an NBA veteran's emotional story extremely well — and with a strong faith angle

ESPN tells an NBA veteran's emotional story extremely well — and with a strong faith angle

The boss man sent me a link to this story.

"This has positive Bobby written all over it," tmatt said in his email.

In other words, knowing my love for "faith in sports" angles, he thought I'd appreciate ESPN's emotional feature on Kyle Korver, whose brother died unexpectedly a few months ago.

For those who, like me, don't follow the NBA all that closely, Korver is a veteran sharpshooter for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, by the way, are down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals and face elimination Friday night. 

The boss man was right: ESPN writer Brian Windhorst told this story extremely well. And he didn't allow it to be haunted by a holy ghost.

LIke Korver does so often, Windhorst nailed the 3-point shot. Let's stand at the free-throw line and consider the first two paragraphs:

PELLA, IOWA -- ON a mid-March day in Central Iowa, Kyle Korver and his three brothers were watching the NCAA tournament together in the same room. Despite his alma mater, Creighton, losing, it was a good day and a good memory.

Korver has hung on to that moment and others like it over the past two months as he has struggled with sorrow. At times he has cried himself to sleep in the afternoons before games and woken feeling something he can only describe as his insides trembling. He has relied on prayer to give him the strength to get up and go to work.

Relied on prayer.

As far as hints to readers — and reporters — that there's a strong religion angle that needs to be addressed, that's an easy layup.

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Nothing but net: Boston Globe nails story of faith and prayer guiding a Celtics rookie

Nothing but net: Boston Globe nails story of faith and prayer guiding a Celtics rookie

Here at GetReligion, we talk a lot about holy ghosts in sports stories.

These are just a handful of cases (here, here, here, here and here) where we have pointed out God-sized holes in mainstream press coverage of athletes.

But here's a nice change: a major newspaper feature about an NBA rookie that nails the crucial faith angle.

Boston Globe sports editor Matt Pepin tweeted that "No one brings you more insight about Celtics players than @AdamHimmelsbach." If this piece is any indication, I'd have to agree with him.

The headline gets right to the point:

Faith and prayers help guide Celtics’ Semi Ojeleye

And the opening narrative sets the scene:

As Gordon Hayward lay on the court Oct. 17, his left ankle snapped sideways, his season over essentially before it even began, Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry knew he had to do something about the rest of the team.

Head coach Brad Stevens was with Hayward, touching his shoulder and letting his former Butler University pupil know he was there. The other Celtics were scattered around the court, several with their hands on their heads, lost in a daze. It was just five minutes into a season that held such promise, and now it was already dissolving in front of them.

Shrewsberry called to rookie forward Semi Ojeleye, a second-round pick from Southern Methodist who didn’t expect to have much of a role on this night. Shrewsberry had gotten to know Ojeleye over the previous few months and knew how much he was guided by his faith. And in this crushing moment, that’s what the Celtics needed.

Ojeleye was initially startled, because he thought Shrewsberry was telling him that he would be going into the game. Instead, the request was about something more comfortable.

“Semi,” Shrewsberry said, “can you just bring everybody together, and can you help us pray for Gordon?”

This is not a long profile — it's a concise, 800-word feature for a daily paper. 

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Theology, ESPN, then a terrible headline: 'The thing that Jesus does best is second chances'

Theology, ESPN, then a terrible headline: 'The thing that Jesus does best is second chances'

Over the years, I have read many news stories about men finding their way into the priesthood.

As you would expect, I hear about many of these features because of emails from GetReligion readers. It is extremely common for these emails to include a comment that sounds something like this: Ah, come on! How can journalists write about men becoming priests (or women becoming nuns) without including a single mention of Jesus?

That's a good question. This is one kind of story in which a person's religious experience is a crucial part of the news equation. I think it's safe to assume that having some kind of mystical relationship with Jesus -- also known as "The Lord" -- does play a role in these career choices. The word "God" often shows up in these news reports, but rarely, well, the "J-word."

That brings me to a recent "Acts of Faith" piece at The Washington Post that ran with this headline: "Fired by ESPN for a racist headline, he’s finding his second chance as a Catholic priest."

To cut to the chase: This is a very fine story and, yes, Jesus does get a shout out. My only complaint about this story is that it was not accompanied by some kind of longer Q&A feature. This is a man with a unique story to tell and, with his journalism background, an interesting skill set to bring to the priesthood.

To set the stage, Anthony Federico's life in journalism changed because he accidentally wrote a racist headline about Jeremy Lin, whose meteoric rise at the New York Knicks was one of the hottest sports stories of 2012. Federico's job in the editorial process included writing headlines and he didn't have a safety net. He clicked "save" and the flawed headline went live.

That set up this amazing sequence of life changes.

Then the barrage of social media outrage started, and he saw what he had done.
“I went to the bathroom and vomited,” he said at the time, describing the sickening realization that he had inadvertently made a racist pun that was now circling the world. What came next was predictable: As angry emails poured in from readers all over the world, Federico was fired from his dream job in sports media.

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Ties that bind in Warriors locker room: Might those game-day Bible studies be important?

Ties that bind in Warriors locker room: Might those game-day Bible studies be important?

Hello, all of you sports fanatics out there in GetReligion reader land!

Yeah, right.

I realize there may only be a dozen or so of you, based on the digital silence that has followed most GetReligion posts about sports-news topics. However, I (along with Bobby Ross, Jr., the Texas Rangers acolyte) have bravely soldiered on and written quite a few posts about the God-shaped holes found in the coverage at most mainstream sports-news outlets (hello, ESPN).

So here I go again, with a follow-up post to the recent NBA championship run by the Golden State Warriors. I want readers to answer a simple question about news coverage (one that will take us into territory linked to the never-ending saga of Steph Curry and his sneakers).

The question: Which of the following two news topics do you think will receive the most post-championship coverage?

(a) Debates about whether these Warriors from the deep-blue Bay Area will visit Donald Trump's White House.

(b) New evidence of faith ties -- a Bible study group to be precise -- that bind among some of the key players at the heart of this pro-hoops juggernaut.

If you are not following the White House story, here is a sample of the verbiage there, care of Rolling Stone:

Fresh off winning their second NBA Championship in the last three seasons, the talk about the Golden State Warriors quickly turned to whether or not the team would visit President Donald Trump at the White House. Within hours of defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5, CNBC's Josh Brown tweeted, "NBA champion Warriors skipping the White House visit, as a unanimous team decision per reports." Brown later said on Twitter, "I have no idea if its true, hence 'per reports.'" The tweets were later deleted, but the news spread and the team issued a statement clarifying their current position. ...
Several Warriors including Stephen Curry, David West, Shaun Livingston and coach Steve Kerr, have been outspoken regarding President Trump and his rhetoric.

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How religion figures in the story of Turkey invalidating NBA center Enes Kanter's passport

How religion figures in the story of Turkey invalidating NBA center Enes Kanter's passport

Not long ago, my son Keaton — one of the world's most devoted Oklahoma City Thunder fans — met center Enes Kanter at a local Arby's. Keaton took a selfie with Kanter and was quoted in an feature about Thunder players serving up "acts of kindness":

“There’s something unique about the team and how the guys are committed to the community by getting out there and doing work,” said Keaton Ross, a student at Oklahoma Christian.

I'm only a casual Thunder fan — baseball is my sport — but I'm fascinated with the 25-year-old Kanter, who must boast one of the NBA's top senses of humor. For example, Kanter tweeted this last year after a Thunder beat writer from The Oklahoman left to cover the Golden State Warriors — Kevin Durant's new team — for the San Jose Mercury News.

More recently, though, the "Turkish-born big man" has been making serious national headlines. And even though it may not be clear from news reports, there is a strong religion angle. More on that in a moment.

But first, the crucial background: As a helpful, big-picture Wall Street Journal report notes today, Turkey invalidated the NBA player's passport earlier this month as part of a global arrest strategy:

ISTANBUL — Turkey is expanding efforts abroad to capture opponents by canceling their passports to force foreign governments to send them back, Turkish officials said, describing a strategy that nearly netted an NBA player this month.
The efforts accelerated this spring in what one of the officials said is part of a counterterrorism campaign focused on Turkish followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose network Turkey classifies as a terrorist group.
Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter told The Wall Street Journal he narrowly escaped a government attempt to force him back to Turkey after his passport was abruptly invalidated during a multination charity tour that included stops at schools affiliated with Mr. Gulen’s movement.
The NBA player, a 25-year-old legal U.S. resident, has been outspoken in his support for Mr. Gulen and criticism of Mr. Erdogan. Mr. Kanter was allowed to return following the intervention of U.S. and NBA officials.

What is Turkey's problem with Gulen? More from the WSJ:

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'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

"Dude. This was a hard read. Never take anything for granted, because every normal day is a blessing."

I first heard about Sports Illustrated's in-depth feature on former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams when my son Brady tweeted the above comment.

Then my friend Darin Campbell posted a link to the same story on Facebook with this note: "If you read one thing this week, read this." One of Campbell's friends followed his advice and replied:  "I'm not sure there is a verbal response for this."


Suffice it to say that Sports Illustrated senior Chris Ballard dives deep and insightfully into the life and mindset of "Monty Williams, the woman he loved, and the power of persistence."

Interest in the story of Monty and Ingrid Williams has been extremely high, of course, since the tragic death of the coach's wife 14 months ago. I wrote more than 200 GetReligion posts in 2016, but my most-clicked one concerned holy ghosts in initial reporting on the Williamses.

Days later, Monty Williams' faith-filled remarks at his wife's funeral at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City rocked the sports world.

Now comes the Sports Illustrated piece, which fills in the gaps of Monty and Ingrid Williams' journey — before, during and after the events of Feb. 9, 2016 — in a way that's hard to explain.

You just have to read it:



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Stephen Curry goes to Liberty: Social justice plus God plus sneakers equals news?

Stephen Curry goes to Liberty: Social justice plus God plus sneakers equals news?

First let me confess that this post is inspired, in part, by the fact that it is written while sitting at a desk that allows me to glance to the side and look at the Golden Gate Bridge.

In other words, I am currently attending a journalism conference in Stephen Curry territory.

This location tends to inspire thoughts on Curry, hoops, sneakers and God -- not necessarily in that order, There are, of course, topics that have been discussed many times here at GetReligion (click here for flashbacks) because, well, many (not all) mainstream journalists have struggle to "get" the whole God angle in the remarkable career of this unlikely NBA megastar.

Anyway, I noticed the following report in the daily online offerings of Baptist Press, a denominational news organization that is usually not my go-to source for NBA news. This is not a remarkable story, by any means. In fact, it's rather ordinary -- which is my point. The question that I think some news consumers would ask, once again, is this: "Is this story news? Why or why not?"

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP) -- It didn't take long for Stephen Curry to start talking about Jesus when he stepped to the stage at Liberty University on Wednesday (March 1).
"It's great to feel the passion for Christ that is here," Curry said.
The NBA superstar visited Liberty in support of a sneaker donation initiative called Kick'n It for a Cause during a convocation at the Lynchburg, Va., campus. Kick'n It for a Cause is a combination of two initiatives founded by Liberty students. 'Kick'n It' is a lifestyle brand that seeks to join the passions of sneakers and pop culture with the goal of community service. The brand was started by Liberty alumnus Chris Strachan.
Kick'in It combined forces with another Liberty student, Emmanuel Ntibonera, to encourage students to donate up to 20,000 sneakers by March 1 to be sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ntibonera's native land, to provide footwear to those in need. The footwear will serve as protection from preventable infections caused by improper footwear.

Now, there are several different newsy things going on in this story.

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