NFL players raise concerns about Christian response to anthem protest: Please tell me more

Sign me up to read the story anytime an NFL writer for The Associated Press asks "What would Jesus do?"

That's certainly a relevant, thought-provoking question for Christians related to the national anthem protests before games this season.

An AP writer produced a nice piece out of Philadelphia, quoting football players concerned about how some Christians have responded to the controversy.

I do have a constructive criticism or two about the report. But first, let's focus on the positives. Those include the great quotes that the writer got from players and pastors.

The compelling lede:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — 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.”

Later in the story, we hear from another player:

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 someone who reads scripture turn a blind eye to it."

Other voices — some disagreeing with the players quoted — are highlighted as well. The story impressed me as fair and balanced.

What could have been better?

I found myself wanting to know more about the specific religious backgrounds of the players quoted. "Christian" is a pretty big heading in a nation with roughly 173 million Christians. I'd love to know where these players go to church, if anywhere, and how their faith is reflected in their lives — both on and off the field.

Yes, that may be asking for a lot in a wire service story with a limited word count. But such details would have, in my opinion, made an excellent feature even better.

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