It is hard to see any sporting event nowadays without most athletes praying before a game begins or thanking the Almighty afterwards for that players’ success. In a high contact, high injury sport such as football, watching players gather after games in thanks for their own health or for those who were hurt during the game is also common from high school all the way up to the professional league. Could all that change this month by way of a court ruling, and not just any court, but “THE Court?” The sports world is waiting to find out the answer to an interesting question: Should a coach lead their team in prayer?
The United States Supreme Court is poised to rule this month on a case that could affect how sports are coached across the country and may even reach the professional leagues. The case involves a high school football coach from Washington State, who, after 14 years, did not have his contract renewed by his school district. The coach, named Joseph A. Kennedy, believed he was let go because he was leading his team in prayer on the field after games in an exercise of his personal freedom of religion. Kennedy’s former employer, Bremerton School District says that their former football coach was fired because of the undue pressure of having a head football coach leading a team in prayer.
Joseph Kennedy worked as a part-time coach from 2008 to 2015 and started out praying alone after games. As time went on, players from his team asked if they could join him, with players from that day’s opponent being invited by those players to join them. Kennedy’s troubles began, according to his own social media pages, when a coach from another team complained about the postgame prayers to the school district. The coach was informed that all prayers must be “entirely and genuinely student-initiated,” and that Kennedy could not be perceived as endorsing them. This spring, the case was heard by the Supreme Court, who is expected to rule before the 2021-22 session ends.
I can’t help but think of the saying from Star Trek that: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or of the one.”
To me, that phrase applies here because Coach Kennedy does have a right to pray after games, just not in a way that would encourage people to join him or be noticed if they do not. If the coach had taken a few minutes to pray in his car after the game, no one would care since it is a private space; but, rightly or wrongly, the perception of favoritism towards the players who joined him would be real, and being “left out” if a player didn’t is an all too real reality that any school needs to avoid, even on the football field during a voluntary activity.
While it may not be fair to Coach Kennedy and the players who joined him in prayer, the rights of all the players on both teams must be considered in this case. That means as a person representing a public school, Kennedy and coaches like him must not be permitted to pray on any field after a game of any kind. Because we are not talking about a coach or player kissing a cross after scoring a touchdown or thanking Jesus Christ after a big win, we are talking about those players who don’t want to pray in pubic or may not believe in God … and that’s why Joseph Kennedy was wrong.
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Opinion: Should A Coach Lead A Team In Prayer? | TooAthletic.com