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Sports Column: Religion's role in sports controversial

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution instills that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Recently though, it seems as if many sports fans would like to prohibit the free exercise of religion in sports. I follow many sports writers and fans on Twitter and always see critical tweets about former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and his faith after he speaks on television.

People don’t think God has a place in sports, and I find that logic to be baffling. Athletes, especially professional football players, put their lives on the line every time they step between the lines.

It’s completely understandable for a player to pray before a game, or thank God after one, because some rely on God to get them through the grueling games that they play.

It’s no different than a policeman praying for safety or thanking God at work –– the spotlight just amplifies it in sports.

Lewis gives all the glory to God in post-game interviews and it rubs people the wrong way, whether it’s because of his controversial past, people’s discomfort with God in sports, or a potent combination of both.

Lewis was accused of a double homicide after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta in 2000, but the charges were dropped and Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He still faces accusations and judgment from people throughout the country who believe that he is guilty, and his religious beliefs seem to fuel the fire.

Many think his belief and faith in God is hypocritical considering his checkered past, which is a valid viewpoint to have. However, it is very common for people to take up a religion or amplify his or her faith in the wake of a traumatic experience. Lewis, along with other sports figures, isn’t treated fairly by critics.

The fact is that Lewis was never convicted of those crimes and he might very well be completely innocent, but he is not treated that way. This raises a larger problem in society today; we are very willing to pass judgment of others, especially popular figures, without knowing much of the person’s story. The old saying goes, “never judge a book by its cover,” and while it’s cheesy, it’s also true. None of us know what Lewis really did, or the demons that he has had to face in the wake of the alleged incident.

Even if he really did commit those murders, the case was dropped and he has focused on bettering himself as a man of faith since then. He has taken many young players under his wing and has inspired fans through his motivational speeches. In no way does that make the murder of two men admissible –– those families lost loved ones forever –– but we can’t change the past.

For those who don’t like to hear athletes talk about God in interviews, I have a simple solution for you: Mute the TV, because there’s nothing wrong with it.

Alex Marcheschi is a junior studying journalism. Does religion have a place in sports? Let him know at jm296009@ohiou.edu.

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