Christianity is the Official Religion of the Washington Redskins

After Robert Griffin III got injured near the end of the game, replacement quarterback Kirk Cousins got a touchdown and game-tying two-point conversion, Richard Crawford ran a punt back for 64 yards in overtime, and Kai Forbath won the game with a field goal, the Washington Redskins were still alive in their quest for a playoff spot and they had good reason to celebrate on Sunday.

In the locker room after the game, head coach Mike Shanahan handed out a couple of game balls and then led the team in a prayer to Jesus Christ:

You guys have done it again. We talk about, what, a full 60 minutes. You guys hung in there. Didn’t look good in that second quarter. Didn’t look good at halftime. You guys didn’t give up. Proud of every one of you guys. Hell of a job. Enjoy your win.

Our Father, who art in Heaven…

… and they all rejoiced and said the Lord’s Prayer.

Including, I presume, any number of players who aren’t Christian but who know they have to pray with the coach or face who-knows-what sort of consequence.

Who knew Christianity was the official religion of the Washington Redskins?

(Thanks to Ryan for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • dcarnys

    This more then likley happens after every NFL game. Sports in general are very religious as if Tim Tebow didn’t prove that. 

    • Zugswang

       Well, as you say, a lot of NFL players and staff are devout Christians, but none show it quite as ostentatiously as Tebow.  All he proved was that obnoxiously public and self-righteous expressions of faith can serve as a proxy to fans for skill at QB.

      And I guarantee it happens at nearly every team, and nearly every game, with very few exceptions (just last month, we heard about a kid from Minnesota quit partly because his coach harassed him for his beliefs.  Not long after, we heard a staff member on the Colts basically say that only faithful people make good players.).  Having known more than a few NFL players, it’s something that is simply ingrained in the culture, from high school on.  While this is something that should change, it’s not something that should be surprising to anyone who’s even casually followed football.

    • JB

      I would say superstitious vs religous.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        NHL players are very superstitious but most are not religous. You won’t see a lot of NHL guys giving thanks to the sky after scoring a goal.

  • Rmsersen

    “they all rejoiced and said the Lord’s Prayer.”

    There are 53 players on the team, and a number of coaches and assistant coaches. That video shows at best a dozen people. Obviously not a team mandated prayer, or the whole roster would be gathered around, and obviously players don’t feel pressured to take part, or else there would be more players there.
    For all we know, these players are all Christians who want to pray after the game, and Shanahan is happy to oblige. Meanwhile, those who don’t want to partake are in the showers, getting dressed, doing interviews, or whatever else is involved in the post-game ritual.As for “consequences”, Shanahan is a pretty accomplished coach who’s been in the league a long time. You don’t last as long as he has by being spiteful or vindictive towards players who don’t share your beliefs. And he’s certainly not going to bench, cut, or trade good players simply because they decline to pray with him and this group.Sorry. This seems like much ado about nothing.

    • Ryan

      That was a team meeting after the game.  I’ve been in situations like that before myself, and there is definitely peer pressure to partake.  You notice the hand-holding is going on well before the prayer.  It is a team building technique, showing yourselves to be as one.  There is no “and now we will rearrange for prayer”…  He just jumps right into it.  I am sure nobody broke ranks (left the room or stopped holding hands), but it is likely not everyone spoke the words.  If this was a prayer group led bu the coach with willing participants at any other time that is a whole other thing.  This is THE post game wrap up by the coach and everyone is in the room (60+ ppl) and holding hands.

      • Entertaining Doubts

         Exactly. Rmsersen claims this coach must be pretty inclusive to have kept his job for so long, but I wonder how willing he would be to lead a prayer or ritual for players who follow something other than his favorite religion, even just to make sure all players feel equally a part of the team? “Ummm… I think east is that way. Now reach in your lockers and grab your prayer mats….”

        The fact that the head coach (read: ultimate boss / father figure) leads a Christian prayer gives the strong implication that players with other beliefs are seen as less valuable than the Christians. A better solution would be to lead some sort of non-religious team-building ritual for all the players, then break and allow players (not coaches) of various religions to lead prayer or whatever in small groups. That’s not just good religious tolerance, that’s good management strategy.

        Or, you know, everybody could pray privately in their own way like Jesus said to do. But that’s just crazy talk.

      • Peekaboo

        How do you know that not everybody there follows the same religion? If you want to start the assuming game we would have to assume all possibilities. That is unless you work for the Redskins staff that is.

    • newavocation

      The privileged seldom can see the privilege.

      • Rwlaoffice

        And what is it about a group of men praying makes those who always look for the terribly downtrodden atheists look for persecution when there is abosuketely no evidence if it? I thought you guys touted yourselves as the rational ones.

        • michael both

          Point proven, how ironic.

          • Rwlawoffice

            Nothing about a group of men praying shows any privilege or that atheists were going to be punished for not participating, yet that is the persecution that the blog assumes happens. The fact that you agree with it proves my point.

    • http://profiles.google.com/kelvins273 Kevin Smith

      I’m sorry, but clearly that picture doesn’t show the whole locker room. It’s quite possible that the whole team is there outside the shot. Furthermore, it looks like Shanahan launched into the prayer immediately after his post game speech and giving out game balls, things you do with the whole team there.

      Furthermore, if you watch the video (at http://www.nfl.com/videos/washington-redskins/0ap2000000108269/Mike-Shanahan-You-guys-did-it-again – Hemant’s link doesn’t seem to be working), you can hear people out of camera range cheering and see people coming out of camera range to get game balls. While it’s not apparent if everybody’s holding hands, everybody’s a captive audience to this prayer.

      • The Captain

        You’re right, it doesn’t show the whole locker room, but as someone who’s been in a couple of NFL locker rooms I can tell you they aren’t that big. It’s actually a little surprising, but since they are spit up into offense and defensive rooms they get really crowded if the whole team trys to fit into one.

        While this is when he is handing out the offensive game balls, I suspect the rest of the team is standing by the doors or not in attendance. And since we can’t see the rest of the team as you point out, I find the conclusion they are all being forced to pray one that is not supported by this video. It’s possible half the team just walked off to the showers when this happened.

        There is a huge problem with what happened in this video though…. Kirk Cousisns deserved that game ball!

        • Kat

          “offensive game balls” – had to laugh!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      First, the players are arranged around the coach.  Either that, or he is talking to a wall part of the time, so you are not seeing every player in the range of that camera.  Because of that, there could very well be some players we are not seeing who are just putting their heads down and not saying anything.

      Second, the odds certainly would be in favor of at least ONE non-Christian in that group.  I would seriously doubt a group that large (60+) consists of ALL Christians.  There could be a Buddhist, a Muslim, a nonbeliever in there, but certainly, at least ONE non-Christian.  Further, there are a few guys on camera who are not closing their eyes or bowing their heads… could be non-Christians who feel they have to participate.

      Third, it is much ado about nothing.  I do believe those non-Christians I referenced are praying along with the team for fear of retribution, but we all do stuff in our jobs that we do because it is just done that way.  And when it comes to religion, we’ve all learned to just keep our mouths shut and go with the flow.  It’s a football team.  To my knowledge, they are not state sponsored.  I don’t care if they have a ritual of praying afterward.

  • Phoenix1942

    it’s virtually impossible to challenge this type of thing, but it’s clear not all football players are religious.  it would be interesting to ask someone like Chris Kluwe what it’s like, although I don’t think he’s ever come out to say he’s an atheist

    • Tainda

      Kluwe is one of my new heroes lol

      On another note, I don’t think you can make pro sports players do something they don’t want to do.   I’m sure there are players with a variety of different religions (or lack thereof) in the NFL and I’m sure if they don’t want to pray, they aren’t going to.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    “Redskins”…

    …praying to the god of European Imperialist  manifest destiny…

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      This is kind of a broken record for me, but I’m utterly stunned that anyone gives a shit what prayer they make, but is happy to ignore the blatant and abject racism.  Try “Washington Blackskins” or “Washington Yellowskins”.

      This blog would normally be aghast at that kind of shit, but everyone loves them some football, so somehow internally rationalizes.  How, I don’t fucking know. 

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        “Everyone loves them some football…”

        Everyone? Because I sure as shit don’t love me some football. Not a fan of the racist naming either. Paint with a less broad brush, sir.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        i totally agree with you Rich. people would be outraged if a team were named the New York Kykes” or the “Atlanta Niggers.” but somehow, in 2012, there is still a team with the redskin name and it’s “unthinkable” that it will ever be changed.

        i used to enjoy football. but not for a long time. the FOX-ification of the way the games are broadcast became too much for me to stomach. 

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

          I was born a Redskins fan and will die a Skins fan but in 2009 the SCOTUS refused to hear a lawsuit and I cannot see the team ever changing the name and I hope they never do.

          Long live the Washington Redskins.

        • Bob Carlson

          The owner of the Redskins is Jewish, so never mind your “New York Kykes” suggestion–the Washington Kykes is entirely appropriate for the team of a Jewish owner who is insensitive to the fact that the name of his team is an insult to a minority other than his own.

        • Peekaboo

          Funny, as I Native American I’ve never been offended by their mascot.

          • 3lemenope

            Besides, it allows for a certain vaguely ironic feeling of symbolic comeuppance when they manage to crush the Cowboys, as they did a few weeks ago.

      • Glasofruix

         Also, why do you people call this handegg thingy football?

        • http://twitter.com/SladeFoster Slade Foster

          Because that’s what it is.  You might be confusing it with commie-ball, that other sport where people feign injury or where matches often end in a tie.

      • clyde gray swindell

        Yes while JayZ and Snoop make millions of the N word , Piss Christ offended Christians , if changing the names helps you Lilly white liberals , then by all means dipstick

  • guest

    Stupid article. Clearly just trying to start something. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/noyourgod Tim Miller

       Stupid anonymous troll comment.  Clearly just trying to start something.
      ;-)

    • RobertoTheChi

      Troll.

  • http://profiles.google.com/noyourgod Tim Miller

    A few more sessions like that, and owner Dan Snyder will try to declare the facility a religious site and grab a few more tax breaks.

  • MM

    Well, the R******s’ owner Dan Snyder is Jewish, so I don’t think Christianity will be the official religion of the team any time soon.  But knowing Snyder*, he’d do it for a tax break and as an excuse to pass a tithe plate around in the luxury boxes.

    * http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/40063/the-cranky-redskins-fans-guide-to-dan-snyder

  • Spenbeck

    It’s quite repellant to think that a god may be helping teams to win matches whilst letting children die in the 3rd World.

    • michael both

      … and that is why, even if a god exists, I would never, ever worship him / her / it. The majority of human beings would pull a drowning child out of a pool, yet a supposedly all-powerful god fails to do that all the time.  Not responding sounds simply evil to me.
      I won’t even get into the stupidity that occurs when both teams are praying to the same god….

  • SeekerLancer

    I don’t give a crap. They’re a privately owned organization. They can be stupid if they want.

    • Ibis3

       A privately owned organization that is coercing its employees to participate in religious rituals. This may be a locker room, but legally and ethically, it might as well be a board room or the floor of a manufacturing plant.

    • Zugswang

       They are also a privately owned organization that enjoys 501(c)(6) status as a tax-exempt trade organization.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    What would Pat Tillman do?  Sadly he’s fucking dead.

  • Jason

    I went to public high school in the 90′s in the deep south. When I played football, we were all expected to  pray with the coach before games. We were also expected to attend Fellowship of Christian Athlete meetings. I’m sure if we had asked, they would have told us that it was not technically required, but I was certainly never given a choice and would have felt really strange about not doing what the rest of the team was doing. And on top of all that, one of the local youth group leaders volunteered as an assistant coach so he could proselytize at practice and encourage students to go to Christian youth group functions at the local southern Baptist church. Clearly this is all much worse than what a private football does with adults. Have other people had this experience? Hemant, have you written on this type of problem in another post? I’m just curious how big of a problem this type of thing still is across the country. Is it possible that this is more the norm than the exception in certain areas?

    • Tanner

      I also played football in the deep South and the same thing definitely happened on my team. I wasn’t an atheist at that point, an apathetic Christian really, so I didn’t really care. But looking back on it it was really prevalent. I’d go to FCA to score brownie points with coach and we prayed before every game. Hell they even brought in a local youth pastor to lead some of them. An oline coach, terrible coach worse man, I had would talk about how we need ti accept Jesus into our hearts all the time. After a game I let him help me accept Jesus hoping to get him to like me and maybe play me more than 2 plays on JV. Luckily he became a head coach at another school and we got an ex Saints player and college UVA HoF. Amazing coach and never once pressured us about religion.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Redskins are not doing bad this year, but given their historic record I’m guessing that they aren’t the official NFL team of God.

  • Antinomian

    The joke’s on Washington. God is obviously a Patriots Fan and Bill Belichick is his prophet..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Pat’s are so over rated it is a joke.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    As a die hard Redskins fan this does not bother me at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/markfheil Mark Heil

    Kirk Cousins was a leader of Cru at Michigan State and held at least one big prayer rally that I know of on campus (a public school).  Apparent;y there is a megachurch near campus that has a HUGE influence on the university’s athletic department and have infected most of the teams and coaches.  I feel sorry for my alma mater.

  • Alajackd

    Um, newsflash guys.. Post Game prayers happen ALL THE TIME, even in college. End the bigotry on Christianity. You’re making total fools of yourselves. What They’re doing is completely legal and quite frankly none of your business.

    • allein

      Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

  • Alajackd

    I get a kick out of the title of this blog post:  “Christianity is the Official Religion of the Washington Redskins”
    a.) It’s perfectly legal and there’s nothing you can do about it, and b.) What’s it any of your business? Seriously, why do you even care? THIS is why the vast majority of people view you as bigots and never take you serious… It’s a clear and deliberate attack on Christians.

    You post billboards, and cute public displays mocking nativity scenes and so forth, but I have news for you all.. You’re like the kid in grade school who tries to one-up everybody else. Everybody listens to you just to expedite your blabbering in order NOT to draw out the conversation any longer than it painfully has to be. Then, when you’re not listening we laugh at you and your psychopathic delusional ramblings.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Actually, I’m not so sure it is legal.  Employers have an obligation to make sure that employees don’t have to endure proselytizing (atheist or religious) at work.   But that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong either.

      • Peekaboo

        Praying is not the same thing as proselytizing last I checked.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Didn’t mean to imply it was.  However, if there’s a prayer circle at work, it’s a good indication that there might also be some proselytizing going on.

  • roberthughmclean

    Footballers holding hands! ooh


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