Black Christians Play a Crucial Role in Athlete Activism

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Though sports ministries long espoused a “colorblind” approach to race, believers in pro sports are leading the calls for racial justice.

Black Christian athletes, seeing their careers as a platform for the gospel, are speaking out for racial justice following the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake.

It’s a pattern that has been building since 2016. Months before Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests against police brutality and systematic racism swept through the NFL (and swept Kaepernick out of the league), Christian WNBA star Maya Moore and her Minnesota Lynx teammates wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts during warm-ups. Moore would later step away from professional basketball to focus on racial justice work, announcing her decision with an essay that proclaimed her life’s purpose “is to know Jesus and make Him known.”

By 2017 numerous NFL players, including Anquan Boldin, Eric Reid, and Malcolm Jenkins, were also invoking their Christian faith as a motivating factor for their involvement in protests and reform initiatives. Those numbers have only grown.

While some black Christian athletes have abstained from the recent wave of activism in stadiums and arenas—Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, for example, cited his understanding of the gospel when declining to fully participate in a pre-game racial justice ceremony—far more have played a leading role.

To name just a few: In the NFL, New Orleans Saint Demario Davis—known for his “Man of God” headband—has championed Black Lives Matter and encouraged athletes to hold the league accountable as it works to address systemic racism. Former player and football analyst Emmanuel Acho launched the viral video series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” informing Sports Spectrum that he recites Matthew …

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