Football Player Flagged For His Faith After Touchdown Celebration

Most football fans can relate to scoring a touchdown.  Especially when seeing your favorite team or player score one youChris Johnson flagged for praying or celebrating too much jump up and give high-fives, chest bumps, or take shots of your favorite spirits.

Well in the NFL, or what is sometimes called the “No Fun League”, this past Sunday Chris Johnson of the Oakland Raiders went to his knees and claimed he was giving thanks to God after intercepting a pass for a touchdown.  He was immediately flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration.  Chris Johnson claims it was because he made a religious display while celebrating the touchdown.

I’m of a different mind when it comes to celebrating touchdowns.  The town I grew up in playing football as well as how I practice my faith I generally frown upon celebrating in the end zone.  The way I look at it is that it’s your job to score points.  I don’t chest bump my colleague each time I turn on my computer at work?!  I don’t high-five the secretary for each message she hands over to me?!

It’s your j-o-b to intercept footballs and run them back for touchdowns.

Being a Christian means being humble.  Combine the above with the Christian virtue of humility (which is annexed to the cardinal virtue of temperance) and you generally should be humble regardless of the situation most times.  Wikipedia even has humility defined as modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect to others. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self, not unlike how Chris Johnson behaved.  If he were truly Christian he would not have rubbed the interception in his opponents face and then make a fool of himself by kneeling down with his arms stretched out to Heaven.

If he truly wanted to thank God he should have waited when he was at home and prayed in private as God wants us to.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

— the Holy Gospel of Saint Matthew 6:5-7

I understand that it’s a game, but being a Christian is 24/7.  Granted it may be easier for some more than others, but we need to practice the virtues that Jesus taught us.

Just because Mark Gastineau did his sack dance, which looked eerily like a Russian folk dance, that or he was kicking imaginary balls in a sitting position, eccentric showmanship has denigrated the game.  The Ickey Shuffle to Deon Sanders showboating antics, they all look like fools and adds nothing to the game and is not representative of being a practicing Christian.

_._

To learn more about humility or humilitas or humus click here.

To learn more about the cardinal virtue of temperance click here.

For an excellent book that covers humility and temperance I suggest The Imitation of Christ by Thomas À Kempis.

For the Yahoo! Sports article by Chris Chase click here.

24 Responses to Football Player Flagged For His Faith After Touchdown Celebration

  • Sounds like a bad call. Ref probably misunderstood, that’s all.

  • I don’t chest bump my colleague each time I turn on my computer at work?! I don’t high-five the secretary for each message she hands me over?!

    Thank you! This is the point I have always made. At least with the guy scoring a touchdown he has done something really significant. What really infuriates me are the guys who dance around like idiots after tackling a guy who has made a 5-yard gain. Err, what exactly are you celebrating there buddy?

    Then again, considering how few tds the Raiders will score this year, maybe the ref should have just let this one go. After all, what other than divine intervention can explain a Raider actually getting into the end zone?

  • Yeah, I agree Paul. And it is worse than simply celebrating for doing your job. A defensive player who celebrates for making a good tackle after a successful offensive play is placing his individual performance over that of his team. It is unseemly and irritating to real football fans everywhere.

    I have absolutely no problem with celebrating after a team makes a particularly good play, but it should not cross the line into taunting.

  • If you want to celebrate in the NFL it’s a called a “Super Bowl Parade”.

  • My mother, a devout Catholic from Italy, would practically foam at the mouth when athletes would credit God with their success. “So, what, God hates the Vikings?! God doesn’t care about your game!” she’d yell.

    I’ve always wanted to see someone stand up after a game and say, “I was doing great until Jesus made me fumble.” (If God is making one team win, he’s making the other lose.)

  • LOL, foam at the mouth!

    I don’t worked up about it. But I do not approve of it.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong, but the way I read about humility, what they do in the endzone does not portray what a practicing Christian should behave as.

  • I don’t know, getting on your knees and thanking God for your success in front of multitudes of people seems pretty humble to me. Though, I don’t care for over the top displays.

  • In and of itself, I see nothing wrong with an athlete publicly thanking God for giving him the opportunity and ability to make a great play. I don’t understand these practices as thanking God for favoring them or their team as such, just acknowledgements that their talents come from God and gratitude is in order.

  • Katherine B.,
    I agree completely.

  • What’s wrong with praising God? Thought America was a land where we can have freedom of Speech.

  • I’m not so sure what to make of Tito Taco’s commentary here.

    There are many examples where you might witness folks giving thanks to God in sports be it a touchdown in football or a homerun in baseball, simply because they’re genuine grateful to God or perhaps due to a certain enthusiasm that overwhelms them that very moment or maybe even both.

    Now, if Tacoboy were talking about certain folks, say rappers (in fact, one in particular), who did a rap song about God supposedly in order to glorify Him, but when he failed to win the award for it for Best Song way back when, complained like a petulant child and even arrogantly bragged that the award belonged to no one but him — that demonstrates not only a severe lack of Christian humility but also, I dare say, hypocrisy, too.

    Heck, that might also go for rappers in general who, for the most part, promote gang violence and even engdender much hatred towards white folk; yet, when they win a music award, the first one they thank *SHOCK* is God!?

  • Luiza & e.,

    So you’re telling me that each time your boss gives you a pat on the back you immediately bend to your knees in front of him and pray out loud?

  • Tito:

    There is the possibility that it might simply be for “show”, but for the most part, I would think that the person who just made the touchdown/homerun was (1) genuinely thankful for having made such an achievement within a game, (2) overcome by the exhilaration he felt at that very moment, which manifested itself in a rather ostentatious display of thanking God then, or (3) both.

    In fact, there’s a time I recall while playing basketball with some friends during free time at university, that when I made a 3-point shot from a very considerable distance; because of what I considered then to be a “miracle” shot for myself, coupled with a sense of excitement right then after I made the shot, I happened to thank God for my having made it.

  • It’s not the “praising God” that’s a problem, it’s that “for show” part.

    I went to high school with a guy who used to cross himeslf before running a track event. It wasn’t that he was particularly religious; he was of South American parentage and did it for reasons of “cultural identity.”

    In the immortal words of John Riggins:
    “When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

  • That quote existed long before Riggins played football. It is most commonly attributed to the Bear.

    Tito,
    It is plain that you never played football. Trying to discern appropriate behavior on the gridiron by analogizing to what is appropriate at the office just doesn’t work. When I win a big case, we don’t carry our managing partner or first chair litigator to the champagne, but it these types of celibrations are certainly perfectly fine for football.

  • Mike,

    Lets play logic.

    Does a heart surgeon have to have heart surgery in order to operate?

    Like I said, a Super Bowl parade is the time for such behavior.

    And yes, I played football, right tackle thank you very much.

  • It’s a GAME! They are PLAYING. Let them PLAY!

  • Bill,

    Glad to see you around here!

    I agree it’s just a game, but you have to agree to some extent that some celebrations do get out of hand.

  • You’re right: it was the Bear, not Riggo.

    This is what happens when one is married to a D.C. boy. Everything begins and ends with the Redskins, even when they’re losing.

  • Tito:

    Lets play logic…. Does a heart surgeon have to have heart surgery in order to operate?

    Is there anything the matter with a heart surgeon, after having successfully operated on a patient who had little or no chance at all making it, thanking God afterwards for quite possibly making that very operation a success?

    cminor:

    It’s not the ‘praising God’ that’s a problem, it’s that ‘for show’ part.

    Personally, I have great admiration for major league baseball players who actually have the guts to cross themselves during a game in spite of the fact that they might get persecuted not only by secular thugs but *SHOCK* fellow Christians who are only too happy to stone them all because of their paying witness to Christ in front of a largely anti-Christian crowd (and that would most certainly include those purportedly Christian hypocrites, too)!

  • Oh, and by the way:

    But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:33)

    In other words, there is much to be said for the Protestant notion of paying witness that, quite unfortunately, certain Catholics have been remissed at professing in public; worse, they would even stone those who actually do!

  • Tito,
    To answer your logic question, the answer is no. But before a person critizes a heart surgeon for his performance, it would certainly be helpful to have experience as a heart surgeon. And being a patient would seem to be pretty inadequate.
    Make no mistake. I cannot stand gratuitous displays of taunting and celebrations that are inordinate or, as you state, get out of hand. But spontaneous displays of joy upon accomplishment is not offensive to me; and I agree with e. that public displays of gratitude to one’s Creator are actually somewhat counter-cultural and pleasing, as long as they do not appear gratuitous and designed predominantly to bring attention to oneself. It is a matter of degree and context. I do agree that many, perhaps most, of the celebratory displays we see are unsportsmanlike and regrettable, but it just isn’t clear to me that this is an example of such. The rule was promulgated to combat unsportsmanlike taunting, and I agree with the rule; but I find it doubtful that this was such a case.

  • Mike,

    I agree about the rule.

    What I am saying is that, beyond the rule, if you want to thank God do it appropriately, not to show off.

    e.,

    Stop drinking your hippie neighbors kool-ade.

  • The lord gave each of us gifts, skills, hobbies and trades to which he blessed us to be great in.

    Celebrate the achievments, honor him and shine light on great, glorious moments.

    I know there have been MANY times I have stopped dead in my tracks and Thanked the Lord and I’m betting all of you have too. The only difference is that he was on National television and we are not.

    Should all of us be flagged and fined because we weren’t in the confines of our home when we have fell to our knees in appreciation or because we bow our heads in a public restraunt?

    I am proud to honor my lord and whether it be on television or at home I am not ashamed nor am I not being humble.

    But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:33)

    Perfect example.

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