2012: The Year of the Outspoken Christian Athlete

It's official. 2012 is the year faith became more than a post-game platitude.

Faith has always taken a front-row seat in the realm of professional sports. Pre-game prayers and post-game God-thanking have long been staples of Monday Night Football match-ups, Saturday afternoon baseball games and primetime NBA showdowns. But 2012 witnessed the convergence of faith and sports on a whole new level. Superstars like Tim Tebow, Olympians Gabby Douglas and Lolo Jones and underdogs like Jeremy Lin and Bubba Watson made more headlines for their faith than their game, confirming 2012 as the year when faith became more than a post-game platitude.

We’ve taken a look at the year’s biggest stories and what was written and said about or by these outspoken champions—for better or for worse—in this year of the Christian athlete.

Following a series of improbable victories for the Denver Broncos, vocal Christian, unconventional quarterback and sideline prayer warrior Tim Tebow led the underdog team to an overtime playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers—in true miraculous fashion.

The 350-yard-driving, pink-club-wielding, poker-faced-pranking Bubba Watson isn’t your typical Masters champion. He may be a goofball, but when he won the green jacket in golf’s most prestigious tournament in April, he revealed a sincere side in his gracious approach to those who oppose his Christian faith.

Due to a series of injuries sustained by starting guards on the New York Knicks, former D-leaguer and benchwarmer Jeremy Lin was given a chance to get in the game. In the weeks following, the Asian-American Harvard grad almost no one had heard of became one of the leading scorers in the NBA and an instant media sensation for his rise to fame, cool demeanor and soft-spoken faith.

This article appears in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of RELEVANT. See the issue here, or subscribe and get three issues free!

With performances that surprised even the most seasoned analysts, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein led his team to a 10-0 start in 2012, leading his Wildcats to a prestigious BCS bowl game. The 23-year-old Heisman candidate with a penchant for power running and an unconventional throwing motion is drawing attention for his outspoken faith and conservative values.

Not just anyone can emerge a winner at the international nexus of marketing, athleticism and political correctness otherwise known as the Olympics. But 16-year-old Gabby Douglas made waves on several counts—for being the Olympics’ first African-American woman to become the all-around champion, for being the first American gymnast to win gold in both the all-around individual and team competitions in the same Olympics and for giving all the credit for her success to God.

In September, the latest album, Gravity, from Christian hip-hop star Lecrae debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. But Lecrae isn’t just the latest top-selling crossover Christian artist—he’s also the unofficial M.C. of the year of the Christian athlete and serves as a chaplain to the NBA’s Kings and Timberwolves, the NFL’s Giants, Falcons and Buccaneers, and MLB’s Yankees, Braves, White Sox and Diamondbacks.

Click here to listen to Lecrae's Gravity on Spotify.

This article appears in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of RELEVANT. See the issue here, or subscribe and get three issues free!

5 Comments

David Froning

1

David Froning commented…

I enjoyed the article. Rich Froning Jr. is another athlete you might want to watch. He's been awarded the title "Fittest on Earth" at the past two CrossFit Games. Like the athletes you mentioned, he gives God the glory (Galatians 6:14 is tatooed on his side). Here's a link to a video that gives some background: http://games.crossfit.com/video/froning-champion (full disclosure: he's my nephew)

Ciarán Kelleher

3

Ciarán Kelleher commented…

I know this is an American magazine but Katie Taylor, the gold medal winning Irish boxer, is a Christian athlete definitely worth checking out!

Ronald Steury

2

Ronald Steury commented…

Too bad you didn't include David Boudia, Olympic 10M Gold Medalist in diving. He became a Christian in 2010 through the influence of his diving coach at Purdue University, Adam Soldati. He has steadily attributed any success in his life to Christ and states his Gold Medal is much less important to him than his faith.

Michael Rothermel

1

Michael Rothermel commented…

Great article on a very interesting phenomenon I've discussed with a number of people. RA Dickey is another (award-winning) athlete who is doing great things, such as partnering with nonprofit organization, Bombay Teen Challenge, all while professing the name of Christ. Check him out!

Brandon Seibert

1

Brandon Seibert commented…

Nick Florence from Baylor University is a man after God's own heart and a phenomenal athlete. He should definitely be added in the ranks!

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