University of Miami head football coach Mark Richt apparently serves as a part-time pastor for his team. That’s why, last month, he made sure they had more than playbooks in their hands:
… when [Richt] heard that some of his players didn’t have Bibles — or had older translations that were more difficult to understand — he set out to fix that, he said, with the help of team chaplain Steve DeBardelaben.
DeBardelaben helped Richt acquire enough Bibles for his entire team and coaching staff and had each one personalized. During Sunday’s team meetings, the Bibles were given out and Richt said that while it was optional his players and staffers take them, he wanted to make sure everyone had the option of having a new Bible if they wanted it.
Here are your Bibles, men. You don’t *have* to take one. But I already wrote your names in them. And reading it will make you wiser. And I control your playing time and whether you have a chance of making millions in the NFL. And I think this is the greatest book ever written. And you’ll hurt my feelings by rejecting the offer. But it’s okay, you can totally say no…
How is that “optional” in any meaningful way? No player who wants to stay on the coach’s good side is going to feel comfortable rejecting it. More importantly, there would be a national uproar if a university’s football coach handed out Qur’ans to his players. So why does the Bible get a free pass?
To be sure, this isn’t a legal issue. This is an ethical one. The University of Miami is a private school — but it’s not a Christian school. It’s not like we’re talking about Liberty University’s football coach handing out bibles to his Jesus-loving athletes. Miami is a school where students may be from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds.
If this were a public school, lawyers would be involved in this issue, and they would argue that handing out bibles sends the message that being a Christian is relevant to their success on the football field (and how the coaching staff treats them).
But even without the lawyers, that concern is as present as ever. You don’t need Jesus to become a better player or a better man. Richt is sending the wrong message to his team by suggesting otherwise.
(Image via Shutterstock. Original illustration. Thanks to Jeffrey for the link)