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The Rushmore Report – Five Christian NFL Players to Watch This Season

This week marks the start of the NFL season. And while television ratings are down in the midst of the never-ending National Anthem controversy, the season will go on. Tens of millions of American fans will be watching their favorite teams. Hope springs eternal – whether you are a fan of the New England Patriots or the Cleveland Browns. But while you are watching your favorite teams, don’t forget your favorite athletes. Here are five Christian players to keep an eye on this season.

1. Russell Wilson

The quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks is a devout Christian. He is outspoken about his faith. In a recent documentary, The Making of a Champion, he described how he found God at age 14. “I had a dream that my dad passed away and that Jesus came into the room and he was basically knocking on my door, saying, ‘Hey, you need to find out more about me.’ So that Sunday morning I ended up going forward to church, and that’s when I got saved.” Six years later, his father did die. Wilson’s testimony is this: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Christ.”

2. Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers grew up in a Christian home, where his parents instilled a strong faith into his life. He asked Jesus to be his Savior when he was very young. He says of his upbringing, “I grew up knowing what a stable relationship was by my parents’ example and how it centered on Christ.” Rodgers says his life motto is, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

3. Colt McCoy

The backup quarterback from Texas grew up in church. He committed his life to Christ at the age of 14. McCoy has used his public platform to share his faith and that of others. He says, “For me, I’m successful because I have Jesus Christ living inside of me.” He continues, “I want everyone to know that they can have the same gift, the same opportunity. It’s free. God’s grace is free.”

4. Drew Brees

Another great quarterback, Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints, shares a powerful faith story. He accepted Christ at the age of 17, following knee surgery. One Sunday, his pastor said God was looking for a “few good men.” Brees offered to be one of those “good men.” The young quarterback lamented his trade to the Saints, but it was that trade that positioned him to lead the comeback for the city of New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He describes the opportunity football has given him to share the good news as “a true blessing from God.”

5. Prince Amukamara

The cornerback for the New York Giants is bold in proclaiming his faith in Christ. Following his team’s Super Bowl win in 2011, he gave all the praise to God. Committed to personal purity, Amukamara says, “I am a virgin, and I’m not ashamed to say that.” As for the Christian life, he says, “It’s not about ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that.’ It’s about a personal relationship with Christ.”

The Rushmore Report – My Simple Solution to the NFL National Anthem Problem

Okay. Enough already with this NFL National Anthem thing. It has dragged on far too long. And despite the well-intentioned efforts of the NFL commissioners, NFL owners, President Trump, and the TV networks, a satisfying solution has yet to emerge. Until now. I have this thing figured out. And I suggest – humbly of course – that the players have it wrong. And the president has it wrong. And the owners and network brass have it wrong. But I’ve come to rescue the NFL from itself. I have the answer.

First, let’s review a few of the failed solutions to the problem.

1. The players

NFL players, by a huge majority, continue to stand for the National Anthem. But the NFL players union balks at any efforts by league officials to mandate this. And the idea of protesters staying in the locker room doesn’t work for them. They want free expression, out in the open. So the players want the right to take a knee during the anthem – in full view of the millions of Americans tuned in to watch the game. The problem with this is obvious. They work for their employers. And staging any kind of protest at work is not allowed in other workplaces. However, to deny them this first amendment expression is only serving to drag this out. This could be before the courts – and therefore before the fans – for years.

2. The owners

The NFL owners are all over the board on this one. Jerry Jones has demanded that the Dallas Cowboys all stand for the Anthem. And his players have obliged. But other owners have allowed for players to do what they want. So the owners have no unified position.

3. The commissioner

Roger Goodell came out with a new policy in May. It said that players cannot kneel, but can still protest by staying back in the locker room until after the Anthem. This fell flat with the players union. So Goodell did what he always does. To use an NFL phrase, he punted.

4. The networks

Both NBC and CBS have announced their solution. They simply won’t show the National Anthem on TV before the games. They reason, the networks don’t televise the National Anthem for other events, such as major awards shows or Major League Baseball. The problem with this solution is obvious – this is the NFL, where they have always televised the National Anthem. This is the chicken way out.

5. Sports writers

A new solution has been offered by major sports commentators. Let each team decide for itself. In cities where patriotism is a big deal, let the owners demand that their players stand for the Anthem. In other places, they don’t have to. But this is no answer, as this would still lead to unending opposition from the players union.

6. My solution – the only good one

That leaves us with my solution – the only one that will work. This is so obvious that I am shocked I have not heard it suggested anywhere else. If I thought of this, surely someone else has. But since the geniuses that run the NFL, the networks, the players union, and the networks have yet to figure this out, I’m happy to help. Here you go. I offer a two-step plan.

Step 1 – Let the players do whatever they want. To order the players to stand for the Anthem will never stand up in court. The expression of the first amendment will trump all else. So any effort to disallow players the right to protest will only shine a brighter light on the protest most of us wish would go away.

Step 2 – Have the networks continue to televise the National Anthem, but do not show any of the players!  The purpose of the National Anthem is to put a focus – for about four minutes – on our great country and its flag – not the players on the sideline. What is the point of watching players stand there (or in some cases, kneel), anyway? Do we really need to know if Tom Brady knows all the words to the song or if a backup running  back for the New York Jets does not want to honor our flag? If we want the players to just play ball, then we need to take the spotlight off of them for the four minutes that we say we want to honor the flag.

What will happen if the NFL gets smart and follows my plan? Two things.

First, the issue will fade into the background. They need to quit talking about it. And by not showing the Anthem at all (the networks’ plan, except for Fox), that will just stoke the flames even more. But if the networks show the anthem and the announcers shut up about which player is kneeling, staying in the locker room, or doing something stupid on the sideline, the issue will fade away.

Second, democracy will take over. For teams and players who still kneel, fans will continue to turn against them. It is the right for the players to kneel. And it is the right for the networks to not show it. And it is the right of the fans to boo them and quit buying their jerseys.

Bonus Suggestion

I will toss in another suggestion for free. This one came from Tony Dungy. The Hall-of-Fame coach has suggested that at the start of each head coach’s weekly press conference, he should set aside ten minutes for his players – who want to push their agenda – to take a few minutes to address their opinions on civil rights, etc. Give them a voice. Dungy reasons, this would actually allow the players to say what they stand for, rather than stage a protest nobody understands.

So there you have it. The solution is so simple. It’s as obvious as the star on the Cowboys’ helmets. Let the players do what they want, but don’t make us watch it. Let the focus of the National Anthem be the American flag – period. Quit talking about what the players are doing during the Anthem. This would satisfy the players union (legally, at least), avoid any more lawsuits, and allow the millions of fans who simply tune in to watch football to have their game back – just like it always was.

The Rushmore Report – Florida Atlantic Coach Lane Kiffin’s Remarkable Journey of Faith

Lane Kiffin has been a football coach at some impressive places: the Oakland Raiders, University of Tennessee, USC, and Alabama to name a few. Along the way, the colorful coach has made a lot of friends – and enemies. He has developed a reputation as the coach the other teams’ fans love to hate. But along the way, God never gave up on him. And now, the coach who has resurrected the anemic program at Florida Atlantic University, has found God. This is his story.

After his USC team lost a game to Arizona State, the coach was pulled off the team bus, where he was told he had been fired. He had to find another way home.

“I don’t wish that feeling upon anyone,” he says. “I wanted to die, because at the time, I was defined by my job.”

But God had other plans.

Kiffin says, “Just when I needed God most, he answered in a big way. I don’t know if God is a sports fan or not, but I do know this: he loves a good comeback.”

When he was at Tennessee, team chaplain Roger Woods gave the coach a copy of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Drive Life. Years later, that book would change his life.

“On the first page were four words that changed everything,” he says. “It’s not about you.”

Kiffin says that brought an old message a fresh meaning to his life. He believes he had “too much success, fame, and money in life too soon.” He was the youngest head coach in NFL history.

Looking back on his dismissal from USC, he says, “What it turned out to be was the beginning of God humbling me to become the man I am today. I was not using the platform he put me on for him. As my pastor once said, God wan’t punishing me; he was just giving me a wake-up call.”

Kiffin plans to use the rest of his career to point others to Christ. Already, he has made a difference in the life of the man he respects most, as his dad has come to Christ, as well.

The coach says, “I don’t like to focus too much on my past, because then it stops becoming your past and starts to become your present. However, my story is a special exception, because it shows people that it’s never too late to discover God, and we can overcome anything in our past. I like to tell people these days, if God can forgive me, he can forgive anyone.”

The Rushmore Report – Ray Lewis Inducted to HOF, Talks Faith & Second Chances

A conversation with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is typically dotted with homespun philosophy, frequent mentions of faith, and biblical references. Upon his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame, Lewis has encouraged members of the press to read Psalm 91, which ends, “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” This isn’t the first time the all-time great has spoken out about his faith. And Ray Lewis also likes to talk about the God of a second chance.

Lewis said, “For me, through the ups and downs, the roller coasters of 17 years, you have to find a safe place. You have to find that place that is very quiet in your head, and anytime I read it, anytime I come across it, my Bible, the first Scripture I read is Psalm 91.”

The former NFL Player of the Year compared himself to the character of David in the Old Testament. He sees David as a flawed, but righteous king, warrior, musician, and poet.

Speaking of his personal faith, Lewis said, “Man doesn’t dictate what you do or how you do it. If you believe in God, never stop trusting. That is where my faith lies.”

Back to the comparison with David, Lewis identifies with him because he was a sinner who turned his life around and made good. There were ramifications for his mistakes, but David discovered a God of a second chance.

Lewis has become a force in the community and a mentor to young athletes. His standard piece of advice to them is not to use his life and career as a model. “Follow my advice, not my footprints,” he says. “Don’t ever do it the way I did. You got to be willing to walk in a storm. That’s what I tell people all the time. If there’s something in your life that you know needs changing, make sure you change it before God has to do it for you. Because if God’s got to change it, you ain’t going to like it.”

Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome, himself a former NFL great, said of Lewis, “It’s not about how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get back up. And Ray has gotten up. He has followed his faith to a second chance God. Ray Lewis is a Hall of Fame player, but more than that, he has become a Hall of Fame person.”

About the Author

William Rhoden writes for the New York Times.

The Rushmore Report – College Football Icon Talks about His Faith

Clemson’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney was recently interviewed during the press briefing for the upcoming season for the Atlantic Coast Conference, where the Tigers are picked to win another conference championship. The coach of the 2016 national championship team, Swinney was asked about football – and then his faith. Clearly, Swinney cherished the opportunity to talk about his faith, and how Christ has changed his life.

“Man, that’s the easiest question I’ve had all day,” Swinney commented. Enthusiastically, he responded, recounting his childhood, being raised by parents who taught him there was a God, and later, coming to Christ at the age of sixteen: “And that was a game-changer for me,” he said, “That’s really become the foundation of my life.”

Swinney continued, “It’s hard to survive and thrive in this world if you don’t have a spiritual foundation and have something that that you know, [sic] will give you peace, because life is hard. And we’re all going to experience death and failure and setbacks and disappointments and cancer. God has always – in my relationship with Christ – given me hope and peace.”

Swinney also shared his life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, saying that he applied it to his life’s journey. The Coach of the Year said that, even though he is the head coach of Clemson’s football program, this life hasn’t always been this way.

“I’ve always used that as, to me, if there’s really hope in the future, then there’s power in the present to deal with whatever mess you’re dealing with in your life. You know, to step through, to hang in there, to persevere, to continue to believe in something. And that’s what my relationship with Christ did for me. It gave me a hope and a belief – the ability to have a hope and a belief beyond my circumstances.”

Referring to his greatest accomplishment, Swinney said it is his three sons’ professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Swinney concluded, ‘Trust me, the people that know me know I ain’t perfect, but I do try to live my life in a way that can be pleasing to my Maker, because I know I’m going to meet him one day. And he’s not going to pat me on the back, talking about how many wins I had, how many coach of the year trophies we got, or how much money I made. Rather, he’s gonna hold me accountable to, you know, how I took advantage of the opportunity and the blessings that he gave me, the impact that I had on young people, the type of men that we develop through a game.”

The Rushmore Report – Christian Boxer Manny Pacquiao Caught Changing Life of Filipino Ice Cream Vendor

Well-known Christian athlete Manny Pacquiao, now a senator in his native Philippines, was caught on camera changing a Filipino ice cream vendor’s life. Facebook user Jen Manilay recorded a moment when professional boxer Pacquiao met a local ice cream man and decided to help him with more than a few purchases of  ice cream. “Sen. Manny Pacquiao is such a good and humble man,” Manilay wrote.

She explained that she was with Pacquiao recently during a sweltering hot day in the Philippines when they decided to get some ice cream from a local vendor. She bought 10 ice treats and handed the dessert to each team member, including the boxing champ. Pacquiao called for the ice cream vendor and after some small talk, he was made aware that the man, Marciano, had recently suffered from a stroke.

The professional boxer turned politician then handed him 3,000 Philippine pesos which is about 57 U.S. dollars to help cushion his monetary and children’s educational needs. Not satisfied with his love offering, Pacquiao felt compelled to give even more and then raised the gift to 30,000 pesos (about $570 in U.S. dollars). The Christian athlete was so moved by Manilay’s life that he even offered him a job, a house and a lot.

Pacquiao has made helping people in his native Philippines a priority, and previously told The Christian Post that they inspired him to become a politician. “I want to provide opportunities for my fellow countrymen that will improve their situations. As a politician, I want to help create jobs so that I can bring them out of their poverty,” Pacquiao said to CP. “I want to give them hope. Boxing has been my passion, but public service is my calling. I love my boxing, but I realize now that is not what my life is all about.”

The 39-year-old grew up in poverty. He has shared publicly that his family was extremely poor during his childhood. He dropped out of high school at the age of 14 in order to support his family of seven. Pacquiao is a former eight-division world champion with 60 wins in his career. He previously told The Christian Post that he fights for both God and country.

“I want to please the Lord, my family, and my fans with this fight,” he told CP last April. “I want them to know I fought for God and my country, to bring them honor and glory.”

The Southpaw is now a politician and reportedly serves in the Philippines military reserve with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

About the Author

Jeannie Law writes for The Christian Post.

Babe Ruth’s First At-Bat

On this day, in his major league debut, George Herman “Babe” Ruth pitched seven strong innings to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Cleveland Indians, 4-3. Born February 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland, the young George, known as “Gig” (pronounced jij) to his family, was a magnet for trouble from an early age.

At seven, his truancy from school led his parents to declare him incorrigible, and he was sent to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Ruth lived there until he was 19, in 1914. That is when he was signed as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles. That same summer, Ruth was sold to the Boston Red Sox.

His teammates called him “Babe” for his naivete, but his talent was already maturing. In his debut game against the Indians, the 19-year-old Ruth gave up just five hits over the first six innings. In the seventh inning, the Indians managed two runs on three singles and a sacrifice fly – and Ruth was relieved. His hitting prowess, however, was not on display that first night. He was 0-for-2 at the plate.

A lot of us made outs early in life. Perhaps you have struck out several times. So do what the “Babe” did – just keep swinging. Babe Ruth became the most iconic athlete of his century because on this day, 102 years ago, he refused to give up.

White Sox Accused of Throwing the World Series

On this day in history, 97 years ago, the Chicago White Sox, who were heavily favored to win the World Series, were at the heart of the greatest controversy in the history of baseball. They were seriously underpaid and mistreated by owner Charles Comiskey. The conspiracy to fix the games was most likely initiated by first baseman Chick Gandil and small-time gambler Joseph Sullivan.

Later, New York gambler Arnold Rothstein reluctantly endorsed it. The schemers used the team’s discontent to their advantage. Through intermediaries, Rothstein offered relatively small sums of money for the players to lose some of the games intentionally. The scandal came to light when the gamblers did not pay the players as promised, thinking that they had no recourse.

But when the players openly complained, the story became public and authorities were forced to prosecute them. The trial against the players was actually just for show. After a tacit agreement whereby the players assented to not denigrate major league baseball or Comiskey in return for an acquittal, the signed confessions from some of the players mysteriously disappeared from police custody.

As a result of the entire affair, the players were exonerated, but they were never allowed to play baseball again. That’s the difference between baseball and God. When he exonerates sin, we are deemed forgiven, clean, pure, whole, and renewed. We receive all the benefits of heaven as though we never sinned in the first place.

The “Black Sox Scandal,” as it has been known for 95 years, has yet to be erased from the record books or the minds of fans throughout generations. The “Sin Scandal” was settled on the cross.

The Rushmore Report – What the NFL Must Do Next

It took the NFL two years to figure out the whole kneeling for the national anthem thing. The owners have found a compromise that seems pleasing to both sides. Players who wish to protest the national anthem must do so from the locker room. All players on the sideline will stand, or their team will receive a 15-yard penalty. But now it’s time for the NFL to address a bigger problem.

Cheerleaders.

It’s been a long time since cheerleaders actually led cheers. Today’s cheerleaders have been reduced to sex objects for men who become too drunk to read the scoreboard. Then the ladies are asked to appear in public – where it only gets worse. Paid minimum wage, they are supposed to just be happy to have the gig.

But now – thankfully – some of the cheerleaders are speaking out.

They are going public with their complaints. As reported by The New York Times, “Performing at sporting events is only a small part of their job description. They are also required to fulfill what is often the unsavory side of the job – interacting with fans at games and other promotional events, where groping and sexual harassment are common.”

Cheerleaders told the newspaper that team officials with the NFL, as well as those associated with the NBA and NHL, are aware of the problem, but have done little or nothing to stop it. They should. Sexual harassment is immoral and illegal.

NFL owners have done well by banning protests during the national anthem. Now they have a bigger job to do. It’s time for them to stand up and take action to stop the harassment of their cheerleaders. And while they’re at it, they might consider giving the ladies a bump in pay. And unlike the national anthem fiasco, let’s hope it doesn’t take them two years to get this one right.

My Trip to the Hall of Fame

It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream – a trip to baseball’s hallowed grounds. The city is Cooperstown and the place is the Baseball Hall of Fame. “The world’s closest fraternity” numbers 310 with the latest enshrinements of Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. There is no place on earth I would have rather been. As a lifelong Houston Astros fan, I have waited since the Kennedy Administration for one of my guys to be enshrined.

With every step through the museum’s halls, I could sense the ghost of Babe Ruth, smell the glove of Ty Cobb, feel the pain of Jackie Robinson, celebrate the records of Hank Aaron, and hear the voice of Russ Hodges as he screamed, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” But what struck me the most wasn’t the 38,000 artifacts spread overe 50,000 square feet. It wasn’t the plaques that honor Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, or Willie Mays. It was the 40,000 fans from all over the world who came to celebrate their guy.

Sitting outside in 90-degree heat for five hours, you could see the Braves fans doing the “chop” at every mention of John’s Smoltz’s name. Randy Johnson’s followers came all the way from Arizona. Pedro Martinez had legions of supporters from Canada, the United States, and his homeland of the Dominican Republic. And my man, Craig Biggio, was joined by 20,000 of his closest friends, most of whom made the 1,720-mile trek from Houston.

What I experienced with my fellow Biggio celebrants was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We recognized each other by our Astros shirts, Southern accents, and constant, deafening chants of “B-G-O, B-G-O, B-G-O!” For three days total strangers became best friends. Ethnicity, age, socio-economic levels, education, political affiliation, and style of Cowboy boots did not matter. We were there to celebrate, adore, even worship one man. That man brought us together. We would have sat in our uncomfortable lawn chairs, baking in the heat, no matter how long the Sunday ceremony lasted.

The same day, all across the land, millions gathered for one reason – to worship the Man. And they do this every week. They come from all walks of life, standards of living, and colors of skin. Some call themselves Baptists, others Methodists, and some Catholics. Some prefer to take no label other than the name of the one whom they worship. For them he is as simple as the ABCs – their Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Christ and Creator. Though his voice has not been heard for 2,000 years, neither has it been silenced, as it still echoes through the corridors of time.

As I walked the halls in Cooperstown and took in the majesty of the induction ceremony with people with whom I shared nothing else in common, I felt the presence of the baseball gods. But this coming Sunday I will be a part of a bigger celebration, joined by millions I have yet to meet. And somewhere in the recesses of my spirit and soul I will hear “something like the voice of a great multitude saying, ‘Hallejujah! For the Lord our God, the Almight, reigns.’ Let us rejoice and give him glory” (Revelation 19:6-7). Nothing in this world has the power to unite the masses quite like one man – especially when his name is Jesus.