Chris­tian play­ers up­set over crit­i­cism of protest

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Sports - ByRobMaaddi

Prac­tic­ing Chris­tians in the NFL want op­po­nents of an­them protests to ask them­selves what Je­sus would do in the same sit­u­a­tion, urge oth­ers to put Gospel above pol­i­tics.

PHILADEL­PHIA » Eric Reid and other Chris­tian play­ers who sup­port Colin Kaeper­nick’s so­cial jus­tice move­ment want be­liev­ers on the op­po­site side of the con­tro­ver­sial an­them protest to ask them­selves a sim­ple but pow­er­ful ques­tion: What would Je­sus do?

Reid joined Kaeper­nick, his for­mer San Fran­cisco 49ers team­mate, in kneel­ing for the “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” last year be­cause he wants to be a “voice for the voice­less,” a les­son de­rived from a Bi­ble verse found in Proverbs. The 25-year-old safety-turned-line­backer said he has dis­cussed faith with Kaeper­nick, who re­mains un­signed.

“It’s the foun­da­tion of why we started do­ing this,” Reid told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Oct. 29. “We all have a love for peo­ple. The Bi­ble tells us love your brother as your­self so that’s why we’re do­ing it.

“We have to speak up for those who can’t do it for them­selves. My faith is ul­ti­mately what led me to start protest­ing and it’s what con­tin­ues to drive me. Faith with­out works is dead. I feel like the past year be­fore we started protest­ing, the Lord has prepped me for this mo­ment.”

Reid made the de­ci­sion to kneel fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Kaeper­nick and for­mer Green Beret and Sea­hawks long snap­per Nate Boyer. Kaeper­nick ini­tially sat for the an­them be­fore his con­ver­sa­tion with Boyer. They chose to kneel be­cause they felt it’s a “re­spect­ful ges­ture.”

But the move­ment has drawn heavy crit­i­cism as it con­tin­ues to en­velop the NFL. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ex­ac­er­bated the sit­u­a­tion ear­lier this sea­son when he sug­gested team own­ers should fire any play­ers who knelt dur­ing the an­them.

Kaeper­nick, who led San Fran­cisco to con­sec­u­tive NFC cham­pi­onship games and one Su­per Bowl, filed a com­plaint that team own­ers col­luded against him be­cause of the protests, which are aimed at rais­ing aware­ness for po­lice bru­tal­ity against African-Amer­i­cans and other is­sues.

Reid said he’s “baf­fled” that some peo­ple mis­con­strue player demon­stra­tions as be­ing protests against the an­them it­self, or the Amer­i­can flag, or the mil­i­tary or po­lice.

He’s es­pe­cially frus­trated by Chris­tians who lash out against the play­ers.

“I do see some hypocrisy with the peo­ple that call them­selves Chris­tians,” Reid said. “If you know Je­sus, he went into the house of God and turned over the ta­bles and was an­gry and said they made the house of God into a mar­ket­place so I would say this is some­thing that He would do.”

But the is­sue has been so di­vi­sive that Chris­tians can’t agree.

“This is not about black, white, brown, red or yel­low; it’s about re­spect for the coun­try and its flag, which sym­bol­izes we are ‘one’ na­tion un­der God,” said Joseph Bruce Sofia, se­nior pas­tor at Glouces­ter County Com­mu­nity Church in Sewell, New Jer­sey. “The na­tional an­them speaks of one­ness and not di­vi­sion; it speaks of hope and unity, of poverty to wealth, from the ghetto to the Pres­i­dency. The Bi­b­li­cal prin­ci­ple of sow­ing and reap­ing is in ef­fect here. Sow dis­cord and we’ll reap dis­cord. Op­pres­sion is a hor­ri­ble thing, and needs to be taken on headon, but take it to the town hall or courts or so­cial me­dia but, in my opin­ion, us­ing the na­tional an­them dur­ing a foot­ball game draws a line in the wrong sand.”

Carl Lentz, the lead pas­tor at New York City’s Hill­song Church, said many peo­ple, in­clud­ing Chris­tians, are ig­nor­ing the real is­sues.

“What we see right nowin cul­ture is what’s easier? To make this about a flag, which it’s never been about, or to ac­tu­ally say, Colin, what’s your beef? What’s your pas­sion? What’s go­ing on?” Lentz said. “Our coun­try has a sad his­tory of miss­ing the mark, miss­ing the mo­ment, and de­flect­ing is­sues. To judge this guy for putting his ca­reer on the line for some­thing he’s pas­sion­ate about, I do not un­der­stand. It’s sad.”

Bal­ti­more Ravens tight end Ben­jamin Wat­son, a strong ad­vo­cate for so­cial re­form, said he’s dis­ap­pointed when Chris­tians put “pol­i­tics above the gospel, em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing.”

“We talk about what Je­sus would do. Let’s think about that,” said Wat­son, who has been stand­ing for the an­them. “How should I Bi­b­li­cally look at this sit­u­a­tion? Is my re­sponse as an Amer­i­can go­ing against what my re­sponse should be as a Chris­tian? If I’m a Chris­tian, I want to de­light in the things that (Christ) de­lights in and those things are blind. They’re not based on color, creed or cul­ture or money.

“Be­ing kind is not pred­i­cated on what you can do for me. Jus­tice is not pred­i­cated on if I ex­pe­ri­enced in­jus­tice or not. We can ad­vo­cate for peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ences that we don’t even have. True jus­tice is blind and right­eous. Chris­tians should be about ex­pand­ing and pro­mot­ing the gospel. If you lis­ten or think about the sub­ject mat­ter that play­ers and peo­ple are con­cerned about, you could not as some­onewho reads scrip­ture turn a blind eye to it.”

Philadel­phia Ea­gles safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins, one of the founders of The Play­ers Coali­tion , said the Chris­tian com­mu­nity could ef­fec­tu­ate pos­i­tive change if it wasn’t di­vided.

“As big as we are, as much in­flu­ence as we have on pol­icy and pol­i­tics, if the Church ever got be­hind re­ally be­ing for equal­ity and re­ally be­ing for jus­tice, it would show up, it would come,” said Jenk­ins, who has been rais­ing a fist dur­ing the an­them. “But a lot of times we don’t show the em­pa­thy, we don’t take the time to lis­ten and we’re just as seg­re­gated as the world is right now.”

Wat­son em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of both sides lis­ten­ing to each other.

“These guys love Amer­ica. We’re not traitors, we just want this coun­try to be bet­ter on some things,” Wat­son said. “When we’re able to sit and com­mu­ni­cate with one an­other, it al­lows us to un­der­stand. None of us areper­fect.

Rei­d­was one of three play­ers who took a knee Sun­day on Veter­ans Day week­end.

“Our protest is against sys­temic op­pres­sion like we al­ways say,” Reid said. “I didn’t feel the need to stand today. I have a mil­i­tary back­ground in my fam­ily. I’ve spo­ken to fam­ily mem­bers who don’t feel dis­re­spected.”

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, San Fran­cisco quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick, left, and safety Eric Reid kneel dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore an NFL foot­ball game against the Dal­las Cow­boys in Santa Clara Reid says his Chris­tian faith is the rea­son why he joined for­mer team­mate Colin Kaeper­nick in kneel­ing for the an­them.

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