Football and Grace

I woke up the morning of September 11th and scrolled through the news feed on my phone.

Acknowledging the 19th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, I zoned in on a story that did not receive widespread attention. It centered around the start of football season in America and a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans and an action that left a disheartening shadow.

At this game, during the national anthem, the Kansas City team chose to link arms in unity against systemic racism, in their own stadium with a home crowd. “Boo’s” were heard from some in the sparse crowd – fans booing a team’s decision to stand up for a cause, one that most likely had been felt by many on the team and by players of most professional sports teams across the country.

I despise booing. Having sat at Lambeau Field, watching the Green Bay Packers play lousy football, I never once uttered a boo. Not for any reason. When a team is down, do you kick them in the gut in the hopes they will play better? No. You either keep cheering or shut your trap.

The Kansas City story came after reading comments on Facebook regarding the Sunday game between the Packers and Minnesota Vikings. The comments were less about who would win the game, but rather the unforgiving sentiments of “how dare they address racism on the field, they are paid to play football,” or “this is not the time or place,” or “I will not be watching (protesting the protesting) if they are going to disrespect the flag.”

That last one. Disrespecting the flag.

Does it not register that the fans who call themselves Christians may be disrespecting their God? That there is no such thing as a right time or place to stand against racism, hatred and oppression? That they are not sharing the grace God has given them with people who are trying to make the world civilized for everyone?

Colin Kaepernick was the beginning of this movement four years ago. Fans boo’d him too, in an attempt to silence what made them uncomfortable. Taking a knee was not about the flag or military. Taking a knee was about a plea to extend love to a race that has had to endure pain and hardship for hundreds of years. If the country and the NFL would have embraced this action then, had begun to form lasting, permanent change, would we be in the situation we are today?

The recent boo’s tell me that it’s going to be a dicey season with those who want the status quo, to attend or watch a sporting event without being reminded of the threads of hate that permeate society. Christian or not, if the heart is for equality, acceptance and love of others, why would you try to drown that out with a negative voice?

On Sunday, my pastor spoke of counterfeit grace, “accepting a counterfeit version of what God has graciously given us.” He asked us to discern what is truth and what is fake in our faith. He spoke of not allowing carnal intelligence to distort God’s truth and that we can neither earn nor abuse his grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). Pastor Shawn told us that God’s grace does this thing for us – it cleans up our messes.

Booing abuses grace.

It denies love for our neighbors.

It adds to the mess.

Booing is a reflection of the unwillingness to comprehend the difference between a person who has the funds to buy a pricey ticket to a football game and the person who dies at the hands of systemic, evil hatred. This is why I am disheartened. Instead of being in a country that unifies, that protects their own no matter who they are, and that lifts up the “less than” much like Jesus did, we are becoming a country of division, hatred, political idolization, self-interest, and dispassionate, unaffected minds.

I know we are not all like this. We don’t all boo. I’d like to believe that there is a majority who choose to follow truth and, yet, my belief doesn’t stop the heavy heart, the anxiety, the sadness, the tears. I ache some days for the soul of this country and humanity.

Whether you have a religious faith or not, there is good in any form of compassionate grace. As a people, we forget how important it is to not only allow ourselves grace when we mess up, but to share it openly with others when they need it most.

Right now, the less fortunate, the oppressed and people of color need our grace, not our vile boo’s. The professional sports community is trying to help with that grace in their support and I encourage you to help as well. Any way possible.

Can you serve in your community?

Can you offer financial support?

Are you willing to link arms, kneel, or do whatever is needed to help fight racism?

Or will you sit in the stands and boo?


Over the last few months, I’ve had my eyes opened wide on the subject of racism through video, documentary, news articles and books. It’s a beginning for me, someone who is white, grew up in a white community, and has very few friends of color. I still don’t have a clue what it’s like to grow up black in this country and feel the fear and hatred, but I am determined to listen and learn. If you are interested in what I’ve watched and read so far, I am providing a few links. If you would like to have an extended conversation about racism to enlighten me further, please leave comments here and we can move forward via email or private messaging.

Books

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Across that Bridge by John Lewis

Video/Documentary

Redlining – a Legacy of Housing Discrimination

I am Not Your Negro (available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling, YouTube)

13 responses to Football and Grace

  1. murisopsis says:

    Mary this is a very well written commentary! I have to agree on every point you make. It is disheartening when we fail to be part of the solution and instead signup to perpetuate the problem. There are many who are afraid but fear is not the same as hate. Fear can be dissipated with education, dialogue, and an open mind. Hate seem to be a worm eating at the core of so many – and is not so easily rooted out. Keep reading and learning!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you. I don’t know that we will ever completely destroy hate in the world, but with open minds and hearts, and an understanding that we’re all one in the human race, it can be minimized or made to crawl back under the rock from which it came.

  2. We’re Chiefs’ fans so watched the game and saw the issue you describe here. As a society we’re in a bad place right now for a lot of reasons. You can see, feel, and hear it in everything. When I was a kid, we use to wonder about the ‘mean’ kids. They were always after or against someone else and most times just because they were different. I must admit I’m seeing a lot of mean folks out there right now second guessing everyone and everything from behind the safety of a screen. I don’t know where it is all headed, but I don’t think it’s going to be a happy ending. I will, however, wish you a happy Monday.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Happy Monday, Judy. I feel as you do, that the “mean kids” are out in greater numbers than before, feeling empowered to hate and boo freely at the rest of us. I don’t know where we are headed, but I hope and pray that the coming months and year bring the beginning of change in government, in attitude, and in the way we respond to the ills of our society.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for being strong enough to write this post, Mary. I watched the game, and I was sure I was mistaken when I thought I heard booing. Who would do that? As a sports fan, I want to see the game, but I understand that these men only ever have this moment to show their support for a cause. Many of them support those causes, with time and money, but those efforts never make the news. If they choose to use their position to call attention to a cause that is personal to many of them, who are we to complain. We look at these players and think about how much money they’re being paid to “play a game.” We don’t see the 8-12 years of effort to get them here, years in which they were mainly exploited so others could make enormous sums of money. We don’t see the ones who never made it to this tier. I’ve never booed the teams I support, and the Christianity I was taught tells me to look beyond the surface of the events and to try and understand the situation better.

    Thanks for this post.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Dan. I never understood the booing, but it is even more perplexing that people would be mad at their team in standing up for a cause that blatantly exists and needs to be rectified – that those same people would be willing to look the other way or deny the issue exists for the sake of their skewed view of what’s important in life. You know I’m a huge Packer fan, but rather than be offended, I am super proud of my team, of all teams, that choose to join in the fight against racism.

      Happy Monday and wishing happy endings for your team tonight and all season.

      • Dan Antion says:

        Thanks. Our team, players, coaches and owners, have spoken out about why they support this movement. I’m proud of them.

  4. Bohemian says:

    An excellent Post about a topic that often makes people uncomfortable, because acknowledging discrimination and hatred, if it doesn’t touch people directly and personally, is something far too many like to pretend doesn’t exist or could be ignored so they don’t have to feel the discomfort and confront the reality. The same thing with poverty and many other Social ills. The egocentric behaviors and privilege can and does blind a lot of people, they are comfortable and don’t want to feel the discomfort, even slightly. The point is often missed, or worse, vilified, turning against the victims and victimizing them further so that they will hopefully, become invisible and quiet again, not rock the boat for comfortable Society. When people are in their insulated bubble, bursting it makes them sometimes feel like they are the victim, even when they aren’t at all, because now they have to face and even admit some very unpleasant stuff and they’d rather just not.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      This is so true. People do not want to address what is uncomfortable for them. It is easier to stay secluded in the bubble of a comfortable life or to distract by downplaying, pointing a finger in the other direction, or spreading vile – as you said, to try and make the issue go away. That is not the way of the courageous or the way of an empathetic heart. It’s not the way that a united and democratic society reacts to the country’s ills, but that seems to be the direction we’ve been headed in. I hope the negative responses can be turned into positive ones.

  5. dweezer19 says:

    Thanks Mary. I felt the same way when I saw this story hit the news feed. Booing ruffles my feathers. I am of the mind that when you don’t like something you don’t just mouth off. It’s like honking. If someone is about to collide with me or has obviously ignored a green light in favor of their mobile device, I might have to toot. These days honking is just another way of screaming at people, expressing anger and distaste for whatever reasons they find. I gave up my deep love of sports the year that Pete Rose was discovered betting on baseball games. I was a teen with a true love of that game based on my Dad’s history of playing ball and loving it. At 84 he still swears from his wheelchair he will find a ‘ball club’ to take him on as a player. I still remember going to an Arkansas Travelers game with him as a teen. They had a bad season and the stands were empty-but they won that day. It was incredible. I am a rare bird that likes to watch a sport being played well and actually loathe the rivalry that has become the bane of the industry. People booing at a sporting event over an act of human expression is the the same as the refusal to follow safe precautions during this Pandemic. Those booing, objecting people want to escape the harsh truth of living and so either turn a deaf ear and blind eye, spit in its face, shake their fists in rage, and will go so far as to want to destroy that which they blame for their fear. I was personally appalled at the lengthy political display that took place last season when LSU was winning in the playoffs and our current white house resident decided to put on a militaristic style grand entrance at an even that is supposed to be for entertainment. It wasn’t a political rally, it wasn’t a half time show. It was grand standing at its worst. Yet no one spoke of booing. No said there was no place in football for politics. I actually lost a very old friend because I simply commented on it. Our true freedom of speech is being threatened right now in this country. When a group of young men who could be ignoring every sad thing in the world and just play ball take a moment to show that they do care about something tangible and real but are met with criticism and booing, how do they find a shred of hope for our future as a human race, for their future as free individuals or for this planet to survive the arrogant abuse of its own inhabitants?
    Money ruined sports. It ruins everything.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It’s interesting, Cheryl, that some of the same people who say there is no room for politics in football, see no harm in incorporating politics into their religion. The latter is what is harmful, holding up politicians as someone to worship, as if God called them to serve. How did we get so turned around in believing what’s moral and ethical? Yes, money ruins a lot when it is used to opress or simply covet over the life of another human. I pray that the majority of Americans can muster a change to the horrible state of affairs this fall. I pray hard for this.

  6. dweezer19 says:

    I never thought I would see the day when politics and religion became an acceptable union. I join you in your prayers, Mary. Good luck to your favorite teams in all ways. 🤗

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