Philadelphia Eagles

Political speeches? Hey AP! NFL This Hall of Fame class stopped just short of giving an altar call

Political speeches? Hey AP! NFL This Hall of Fame class stopped just short of giving an altar call

GetReligion readers know that I am a big sports fan, even during these days of NFL confusion. I lived in greater Baltimore for 12 years and followed the Ravens quite closely.

So, yes, I watched the NFL Hall of Fame speeches the other day, in part because Ray "God's linebacker" Lewis was a first-ballot pick and he spoke at the end of the program.

Now, you knew that Lewis was going to go into full-tilt preacher mode when given this kind of platform. Right? 

So imagine my rather cynical surprise when I picked up my Knoxville News Sentinel the next day and saw this headline on the Associated Press story covering this event: "Hall of Fame speeches get political." That was a shorter version of the AP's own headline: "Hall of Fame speeches get political in Canton, Chattanooga."

Ah come on. Yes, there was obvious political implications to many of the remarks. I get that.

But several of the speakers packed their speeches with so much Godtalk that I thought the NFL police were going to have to rush in to prevent them from ending with an altar call. Many of the most striking remarks, in terms of politics, were mixed with religious content. I mean, Lewis -- in a plea for safer schools -- even talked about prayer in American schools.

This was a classic example of one of GetReligion's major themes: "Politics is real. Religion? Not so much." Here is the AP overture, which is long -- but essential. You have to see how hard AP worked to stress the political over the spiritual.

CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- Just as the demonstrations of players during the national anthem have become a means of expression for NFL players, the stage at the Hall of Fame inductions often turns into a political platform. It certainly did Saturday night.

Ray Lewis did so with his words, and Randy Moss with his tie.

There even were political tones with a different target 600 miles away during Terrell Owens’ speech at his personal celebration of entering the pro football shrine.

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Different motives for kneeling? Faith-based logic for some Eagles to miss White House rite?

Different motives for kneeling? Faith-based logic for some Eagles to miss White House rite?

If you have been anywhere near social media (or a television) in the past couple of days, then you know that the latest media storm linked to America's Tweeter In Chief concerns the National Football League, the world-champion Philadelphia Eagles, kneeling and the National Anthem.

Of course, when it comes to the NFL and images of kneeling, not all kneelers are considered equal (based on past controversies). Hold that thought.

The current controversy centers on the fact that many Eagles players were not planning to go to a White House rite to celebrate their Super Bowl win. For some -- repeat "some" -- of the players, their decision was linked to ongoing #BlackLivesMatter efforts to protest disturbing acts of police violence against African Americans. But other players had other places that they needed to be. Hold that thought, as well.

In response, President Donald Trump did that thing that he does. Here is a bite from a typical news story, at ESPN:

The White House has blamed the Philadelphia Eagles for President Donald Trump's decision to cancel the ceremony to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. ... White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sensed "a lack of good faith" by the Eagles during discussions about the scheduled event.

According to Sanders, the Eagles notified the White House on Thursday that 81 people would attend the event, which was scheduled for Tuesday. A group of 1,000 Eagles fans also were scheduled to be a part of the ceremony.

Trump also took to Twitter to knock the NFL's decision to allow players, in the future, to choose to remain in the locker room during the National Anthem. This move accompanied an order attempting to shut down various forms of visible protest, including kneeling.

The president’s next move was easy to predict. On Twitter, he added this:


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Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Sports journalists had to work hard to avoid the religion ghosts in Super Bowl LII.

Nevertheless, most of them seem to have succeeded in doing so. That's strange, since it's easy to make a case that religious faith was a key factor in the chemistry behind the amazing Eagles victory. We are not talking about evangelism here, we're talking about football facts.

Let it be noted that here was a substantial wave of Godtalk coverage just before this high holy day on the American cultural calendar. Click here for a GetReligion summary of that -- including the Bob Smietana Acts of Faith piece in The Washington Post, which had lots of details on the Bible study and baptism culture in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

There was even a solid religion-angle in the annual battle of the Super Bowl ads, as in that bizarre spot featuring some very religious and very famous words from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's the top of the solid USA Today piece on that:

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon imploring hearers to imitate the servanthood of Jesus, he probably didn't envision them buying Ram trucks to do so. And yet there was King's voice Sunday night, booming through millions of TV speakers during Ram's latest Super Bowl ad:

"If you want to be important -- wonderful. If you want to be recognized -- wonderful. If you want to be great -- wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness."

What was the precise meaning of "servant" in this context?

Anyway, back to strong role that Christian faith and community service played in holding this Eagles squad together in a year in which many key players were lost with injuries, including its young superstar quarterback.

Now, I would assume that sports-beat pros covering this kind of event pay careful attention to the hometown papers for both participating teams. That would mean that lots of folks saw the pregame piece by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes talking about the faith-bond between the Eagles QBs -- all of them. The overture is long, but the detail matters on several levels.

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