Recent controversial events in the world of professional sports have taken center stage. Looking at the responses, it seems that sports media has taken two steps forward, but one step back.
Playing out right before our eyes, ESPN anchor Dan Orlovsky boldly called for prayer during a live broadcast of an NFL game when player Damar Hamlin suddenly collapsed. In those moments, Christians across the nation raised a collective “hallelujahâ€ as Hamlin’s fellow players fell to their knees in prayer for their teammate without hesitation on live TV.
Hamlin’s heart had stopped. The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety suffered a cardiac arrest. After multiple resuscitations, and a one-week hospitalization, much to the shock and awe of everyone, Hamlin survived. Bills coach Zac Taylor said, “God is great, he works miracles. This is certainly a miracle, no question.â€
A surge of supernatural power blasted across the airwaves as masses of people lifted up a unified prayer for Hamlin. What an unprecedented display of faith on a secular public platform! The undeniable miracle of prayer was broadcast to millions.
This is two steps forward.
Then, just a few weeks later, a much different story played out in the same world of professional sports in a different arena. NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov gracefully opted out of a pre-game warmup where the team wore rainbow adorned Pride-themed jerseys and used hockey sticks wrapped with rainbow tape. Provorov said, “I respect everyone. I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.â€
And just like that, the liberal media flip-flopped, castigating Provorov for simply practicing his faith. The response following Orlovsky’s stance for his faith wildly contrasts the response to Provorov’s. In blatant disapproval of his choice, some called for imposing fines on Provorov and the Philadelphia Flyers, and even Provorov’s suspension. One so-called pundit spewed vitriol suggesting Provorov be sent back to his home country of Russia and enlisted to fight in the war against Ukraine.
This is one giant step back.
How can the two events bring such diametrically opposed reactions? Perhaps because the rote response in the face of death is to desperately run to God for help, and the collective masses may consider this type of prayer acceptable in a dire situation. But how dare we allow God to influence our cultural choices when it goes against the “norm!â€ Orlovsky and Provorov both exemplified what a relationship with God produces when faith is tested. They both chose to stand firmly on their convictions, likely knowing there would be backlash from the “woke mob.â€
However, in the midst of dogmatic and hypocritical responses from the liberal sports media, a glimmer of hope peeked through. Freedom and autonomy might still have a fighting chance. It was heartening to hear the NHL’s official response to the matter which supported Provorov and all players’ right to choose whether or not to participate. Provorov’s coach John Tortorella said, “Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.” Coach Tortorella went on to explain Provolov’s right to choose according to his conscience.
As for Provorov’s fans, how have they responded to the controversy? In a rally of support, fans bombarded an online store and quickly Provorov’s jerseys sold out â”€ because fans support the fact that he did not.
The right to choose is (supposed to be) a fundamental right of every American. Choice is also a paramount value of Christianity. We choose whether or not we follow the God who sent His Son to take the penalty for our sins. We each have a basic, God-given right to choose.
As Christians we desire above all else to follow Jesus and to tell others about Him, not from a standpoint of condemnation but one of compassion. Without the Cross of Jesus, we would all be destined for an eternity in Hell. As much as Christians preach, teach and warn the world about the consequences of sin, most respect the rights of others to believe as they will. In turn, we simply want the same consideration from everyone else.
Never to be forgotten is the timeless expression of our desire to live free which was written in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.â€
As we move forward together in the fight to protect freedom, chiefly religious freedom, we cling to the One who made us free. In the final analysis, although the world may take two steps forward and one step back, we know that the Kingdom of God remains immovable.