Stephen Curry goes to Liberty: Social justice plus God plus sneakers equals news?

First let me confess that this post is inspired, in part, by the fact that it is written while sitting at a desk that allows me to glance to the side and look at the Golden Gate Bridge.

In other words, I am currently attending a journalism conference in Stephen Curry territory.

This location tends to inspire thoughts on Curry, hoops, sneakers and God -- not necessarily in that order, There are, of course, topics that have been discussed many times here at GetReligion (click here for flashbacks) because, well, many (not all) mainstream journalists have struggle to "get" the whole God angle in the remarkable career of this unlikely NBA megastar.

Anyway, I noticed the following report in the daily online offerings of Baptist Press, a denominational news organization that is usually not my go-to source for NBA news. This is not a remarkable story, by any means. In fact, it's rather ordinary -- which is my point. The question that I think some news consumers would ask, once again, is this: "Is this story news? Why or why not?"

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP) -- It didn't take long for Stephen Curry to start talking about Jesus when he stepped to the stage at Liberty University on Wednesday (March 1).
"It's great to feel the passion for Christ that is here," Curry said.
The NBA superstar visited Liberty in support of a sneaker donation initiative called Kick'n It for a Cause during a convocation at the Lynchburg, Va., campus. Kick'n It for a Cause is a combination of two initiatives founded by Liberty students. 'Kick'n It' is a lifestyle brand that seeks to join the passions of sneakers and pop culture with the goal of community service. The brand was started by Liberty alumnus Chris Strachan.
Kick'in It combined forces with another Liberty student, Emmanuel Ntibonera, to encourage students to donate up to 20,000 sneakers by March 1 to be sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ntibonera's native land, to provide footwear to those in need. The footwear will serve as protection from preventable infections caused by improper footwear.

Now, there are several different newsy things going on in this story.

For Baptist Press, the lede is clearly the religion element. You have one of the world's best known athletes giving his Christian testimony in what, for some, would be a controversial setting. This isn't a surprise, since Curry is very open about his faith and, well, reporters should have figured out the Bible verses written on his sneakers thing by now.

It also helps to know that Curry's younger brother Seth -- currently lighting things up for the Dallas Mavericks -- played hoops at Liberty.

So Steph Curry said the kinds of things one would expect an openly Christian guy to say in a chapel setting, asking students to "use their talents and abilities" to serve God and help others.

"Taking your platform and using it to shine a light for Christ is what it's all about," he said.
Curry described his public platform as an opportunity to point people to Christ and not to himself.
"God has given me a special platform, but it's not about me," Curry said. "Whether it is winning games, losing games, making shots, missing shots it is all about giving glory to God."

This story received some media play in the mountains of Virginia, which is no surprise. In addition to some faith content, this Roanoke Times story had some crucial details, on the business and missions side of this project:

Curry was on campus to speak but also to promote the efforts of Emmanuel Ntibonera, an LU student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who is collecting shoes to send to his homeland.
To support Ntibonera’s cause, Liberty distributed bins around the Vines Center to collect donated shoes.
The goal is to collect 20,000 pairs of shoes that LU will deliver to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this summer. According to LU spokesman Len Stevens, LU has collected nearly “20,000-plus and counting” shoes to donate.
Under Armour, a Steph Curry sponsor, donated 1,000 pairs of children’s shoes to the effort.

So, indirectly, one of the giants of the world of sports fashion is also involved in this project, simply because of Curry.

You may recall that controversial ESPN story about giant Nike losing Curry to its upstart rival, in part (as I read things) because Under Armour didn't seem to mind the NBA superstar making faith and values a part of "his brand" with the sneakers. Note the biblical reference in my GetReligion headline about that multi-million-dollar dust-up: "ESPN's epic on Nike losing Steph Curry: Yes, that 4:13 Bible reference is part of the story." The ESPN team, as often is the case, all but ignored the faith element of this major news story.

So, for the mainstream press -- including here in the Bay area -- it's clear that the Curry goes to Liberty story was not worth coverage. The question, again, is "Why?"

I agree that the faith element alone is not news here in San Francisco. My question is whether the social-justice meets sneakers element of Kick'in It -- with Under Armour's involvement -- was worthy of a story in the media of the region in which Steph Curry plays (as opposed to the media near Liberty).

Why or why not, No. 1? We already know, so far, that the answer is "No."

One more comment: Would it have been Bay area or even national sports news if anti-Liberty University activists of some kind -- perhaps anti-Donald Trump forces or LGBTQ groups -- had protested Curry's involvement in this project and his chapel appearance?

Why or why not, No. 2? I would assume that the answer here is "Yes."

Thoughts on this set of journalism decisions?

 

 

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