KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Public manifestations of faith and charity, as well as doubt and pandering to the culture of death, have become underlying themes of the 2020 NFL playoff season.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers illustrate this contrast in worldviews. The Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, while the Packers were recently eliminated in the NFC conference final. Both teams have high-profile quarterbacks, solid defenses and loyal fan bases that will support them to the end, even in subzero weather. However, at least publicly, a significant difference in the teams' spiritual culture has surfaced in the media as of late.
Chiefs owner and CEO, Clark Hunt, does not keep his Christian faith to himself. Saying he makes it a top priority for his NFL staff, Hunt has built a team culture on this faith. "We want our employees to develop spiritually," Hunt reflected in October at the CityFest East Texas Men's Luncheon.
Hunt, a Protestant, has hired chaplains to minister at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, and has built a non-denominational chapel. His team holds religious services for people before home games, because many fans miss going to religious services on Sunday by attending Chiefs games. (There is no holy day of obligation for non-Catholics as there is for Catholics to attend Mass.) A non-denominational service is held in a pavilion at Arrowhead each Sunday home game. Hunt makes this a priority.
"My identity is my faith in Christ," he stated. Knowing that some fans treat football as a religion, Hunt also stressed to the crowd at CityFest that he does not want success to become an idol with the Kansas City Chiefs organization, or its fans.
Alex Campbell, Kansas City Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), said of Hunt in 2017, "You're establishing a new culture. You get to see this thing come to fruition where lives can be changed. ... The service has that much of an impact, and the season-ticket holders are saying, 'We need this.'"
Clark Hunt has been owner of the Chiefs since his father, Lamar Hunt, died in 2006. The Chiefs have not been to a Superbowl since 1970; but since Hunt and his staff drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes and added talent and depth around him, they have again climbed to the upper echelons of the league. "Watching Patrick last year was an unbelievable revelation," Hunt said. "You would have thought he was a 10-year veteran."
Like Hunt, Mahomes has not kept his faith secret. In a Tweet last February, the young quarterback thanked his fans, saying, "Man this is crazy! God is amazing! Thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped me get here! #ChiefsKindgom thank you for your passion but this is just the beginning!"
On the other side of the spectrum, the Green Bay Packers Foundation just awarded one of its annual grants to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. The Packers tried to backpedal by claiming the money was earmarked for something that wasn't abortion, many fans do not believe their account.
Former African-American NFL player Jack Brewer said in an interview on Fox News:
I think it was a bad move anytime you support an organization that has participated in black genocide across America. ... In New York state alone there's more black babies that get aborted every year than there are actually born. That's just the sad reality; I think the Green Bay Packers made a big mistake.
Fr. Richard Heilman, priest for the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin and founder of the United States Grace Force, said he was devastated to learn that the Packers are contributing to the culture of death. He heard the news during the team's post-season playoff push.
Recalling legendary coach and daily Mass-goer Vince Lombardi, Heilman stated in an article on his webpage, "It breaks my heart when one of my loved ones seems to fall to the temptation of winning the esteem of men, more than winning for God!"
In a conversation with Church Militant, Fr. Heilman explained his consternation. "From my boyhood days," he said, "the Packers represented, to me, all that is good and wholesome about America. It broke my heart that my beloved Packers seemed to be absorbed into the Culture of Death's plan to normalize the killing of vulnerable children. In my shock, I said, 'No! Not my Packers!'"
It didn't stop there. Star Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers also made news with his comments during an appearance on girlfriend Danica Patrick's podcast, where he expressed doubts about the existence of God.
Rodgers shared what he learned from his Protestant upbringing and spoke of his religious experience as an adolescent. Then he told Patrick: "I don't know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet to a fiery Hell. What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his beautiful creation to a fiery Hell at the end of all this?"
Section 1033-1034 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who die without “repenting and accepting God's merciful love” are "separated from him" forever "by their own free choice." It clarifies that Hell is a "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God" and that Jesus often spoke of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted.
Rodgers' family, from whom he has been estranged for five years, expressed dismay at their son's comments, and Wisconsin Christians are thinking twice about the level of devotion and support they give to the Green Bay Packers.
Meanwhile, the co-owner and vice-president of the Chicago Bears, Pat McCaskey — a devout Catholic — served as keynote speaker at the March for Life in Chicago earlier this month. Along with his devotion to the Faith and to pro-life advocacy, McCaskey is the chairman of Sports Faith International.