Ray Lewis

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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Praying during NFL chaos: Ray Lewis pleads with journalists to pay closer attention

Praying during NFL chaos: Ray Lewis pleads with journalists to pay closer attention

Who knew that journalists would ever need instant-replay technology in order to cover what is, and what is not, taking place during pre-game performances of the national anthem?

I don't watch much National Football League action these days, not because I've cut the cable TV cord or because I am involved in some kind of boycott. No, I'm an ex-Baltimore guy who no longer gets to watch his team (no way I'm buying an NFL cable package). I do watch the Tennessee Titans, and that's pretty much that.

However, I have been tuning in some of the games long enough to follow the protests. I have noticed something that I think is interesting, something that might be of interest to sports journalists (and even religion-beat reporters). There might be a news angle here.

What? Some of the players' lips are moving. Yes, some are singing along to the national anthem. But others are clearly saying things and not to each other. Some of these players are kneeling. Some of them are standing.

Trigger warning to paranoid NFL officials: These players may be praying.

For example, take a close look at the video at the top of this post. Please watch the whole thing.

What do you see? Well, there are Ravens players with their hands lifted. In some religious traditions, especially among charismatic or Pentecostal Christians, this is a symbol of prayer. But let's play special attention to retired linebacker Ray Lewis, who is -- to say the least -- an outspoken Christian and social activist.

Early in the video, Lewis is shown kneeling -- on one knee -- with other Ravens players. However, pay close attention a minute and a half (1:25) into the video. Lewis is now on both knees and, read his lips, it is pretty clear that he is praying.

So, has Lewis joined the Black Lives Matter protest against police violence or not? This is a crucial, and newsworthy, issue. You can see this in the Sports Illustrated report that ran with this headline: "Added Security Posted Near Ray Lewis Statue After Lewis Kneels for Anthem." The key: It is stated as fact that Lewis took part in the protest by players.

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Super Bowl: Ray Lewis is Ray Lewis -- deal with it

I have said it before and I will say it again. I know that, as a rule, GetReligion readers care very little about what happens in the world of sports.

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More about Ray Lewis and his Psalms 91 t-shirt

So, GetReligion readers, I am happy to report that the Baltimore Sun team noticed the scripture reference at the heart of one of the biggest moments in the recent history of sports here in Charm City. I am referring to the fact — click here for the previous GetReligion post — that when, after Ravens personnel had ripped the jersey off his back, superstar linebacker Ray Lewis faced national television cameras and ran a victory lap of the stadium while wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed “Psalms 91.”

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A big, vague ghost in the Ray Lewis reporting

If you are a pro-football fan, or a human being who is alive and breathing in greater Baltimore, then you are probably aware that today’s playoff game between the Ravens and the “Indianapolis Colts” is the final home game for Ray Lewis, perhaps the greatest inside linebacker to ever put on pads (and I say that as an old-school fan of Mike Singletary).

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