The story goes like this: A prayerful quarterback is rewarded by God with a winning pass. Or, God will favor the faithful athlete with “good health and success.”
At the same time, many Americans who are both religious and love football think that players should be banned from the game for domestic violence and that teams should draft openly gay players.
Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, told RNS “One in four Americans believe there will be a 12th man on the field, and that the hand of God will be seen before the final whistle blows in the Super Bowl.”
The survey of 1,012 U.S. adults, conducted by PRRI in partnership with Religion News Service, measures how people interweave team spirit and spirituality — and moral wrath, too. Nearly one in three Americans would slap a lifetime ban on players convicted of domestic violence, even for someone on their favorite team.
And 53 percent agree God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success…”
“I was surprised at how seriously Americans are taking domestic violence in sports. Nearly one in three (29 percent) would support a lifetime ban for a player convicted of domestic violence,” said Jones. “That’s a heavy penalty.”
Most (59 percent) would allow such a player to return after a temporary suspension.
But few would make that easy. Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) would oppose a professional sports team’s hiring a player “who has been convicted of domestic violence but is not in current legal trouble.”
Equal access for gay and lesbian athletes in professional sports:
Survey respondents greeted the issue with a shrug: 73 percent say they would favor a team’s drafting a gay or lesbian player.
Even so, there’s an overwhelming sense that this is not an easy road for these athletes: 88 percent, including majorities of every major religious group, say gay and lesbian athletes face discrimination in professional sports.
The survey was taken before the current flap about the Patriots and football inflation, so we can only guess at the theological implications.