God and Steve McNair

33-88432-FIt’s not a surprise, but Nashville police today classified the deaths of former NFL MVP Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi as a murder-suicide, with Kazemi killing McNair because she suspected he was having an affair with another woman — no, not his wife — and then turning the gun she had just bought on herself.

After the shock set in Saturday of McNair’s death, much of the reporting turned to the former Titans quarterback’s conflicting images. An open relationship with a 20-year-old girl wasn’t something people expected from a respected community leader, believed to be squeaky clean, and an ostensibly loyal husband and loving father of four.

This headline from USA Today sums it up: “Steve McNair’s Death Brings Other Side of His Life to Light.” And what did fans who called into George Plaster’s sports radio show think?

While taking calls from his audience, Plaster said, there was virtually no reference to McNair having an affair. “Everybody had a version of the same story — that I met Steve McNair, I was nervous and before I knew it we started laughing and it was like we were friends forever,” Plaster said. “There have been a lot of people in this community who have been touched by good things he’s done. … What always struck me about him was it didn’t matter if you were the king of England or a janitor, he treated everybody the same.”

Donna Doss, 44, an interior designer in Nashville and a Titans season ticketholder since 1999, has a helmet McNair autographed at a party where, she said, “He was only paying attention to his wife.”

“I will always love him. He was a warrior, and he always gave us 110%,” Doss said of McNair, who played nine years in Tennessee after the Houston Oilers moved.

As for the infidelity question, Doss said, “I am definitely disappointed in him. I just thought he would be different than others. I was really shocked to find out he had a girlfriend, especially one so young.”

Disappointed? Me too, but it should be more than that. Though it’s really difficult to expect better from professional athletes. I’m not sure if Steve McNair was a God-fearing man — his funeral is being held tomorrow at Mount Zion Baptist — but you don’t have to be religious to know that adultery is wrong.

And what about Kazemi?

When I first heard her name, I assumed she was Persian and wondered if she was Muslim. But it wasn’t until I saw a story in the Tennessean that I realized Kazemi was Baha’i.

Kazemi and her family moved to the U.S. in 2002, fleeing Iran to Turkey before settling in Florida. As members of the Baha’i Faith, they were in danger in Iran. They quickly got acclimated in the U.S. Kazemi worked hard and liked earning her own money, the family said.

0005Previously I had read that Kazemi’s mother had been murdered in Iran, but this article only stated that she died and Kazemi was adopted by her aunt’s family. The oddest part about this story, which focused on the fact that Kazemi expected McNair to leave his wife and marry her, was the subhead: “Woman’s family was leery of affair with former Titan.”

I’m not sure if Kazemi was an observant Baha’i, but if her family was, then I’m sure they were a bit more than leery.

Neither this article nor any of the others I’ve seen has offered anything more enlightening than where to place the apostrophe in spelling Baha’i. There has been no mention — none — of what the religion actually entails. Here’s a crash course from Bahai.org:

The Faith’s Founder was Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman from Tehran who, in the mid-nineteenth century, left a life of princely comfort and security and, in the face of intense persecution and deprivation, brought to humanity a stirring new message of peace and unity.

Baha’u’llah claimed to be nothing less than a new and independent Messenger from God. His life, work, and influence parallel that of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Bahai’s’ view Baha’u’llah as the most recent in this succession of divine Messengers.

The essential message of Baha’u’llah is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race, and that all the world’s religions represent stages in the revelation of God’s will and purpose for humanity. In this day, Baha’u’llah said, humanity has collectively come of age. As foretold in all of the world’s scriptures, the time has arrived for the uniting of all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society. “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens,” He wrote.

As you can imagine, murder is forbidden by the Baha’i. So too are alcohol and drugs — another knock on Kazemi. As for adultery, that’s, to use a Christian expression, a cardinal sin. Baha’i believers are very traditional on that point, too. Marriage, according to Baha’u’llah, is “a fortress for well-being and salvation” and the foundation for human unity.

Print Friendly

  • Brian Walden

    One thing that bugged me from the start of this is that the media always refers to Kazemi as McNair’s girlfriend – and in the first few days they rarely even mentioned that he was married. I first heard about this story on Sunday morning and didn’t find out until Monday afternoon that McNair was married.

    I don’t know what the AP stylebook says, but shouldn’t Kazemi have been called McNair’s mistress or some other term that identifies that he was married and she wasn’t his wife. Isn’t there a huge difference between a man murdered by his girlfriend and a man murdered by the woman he’s having an affair with? It completely changes the story.

  • Tina

    She was mad because McNair had another girlfriend. What did she expect when he was running around on his wife with her. McNair was playing with fire and got burned, it should be a lesson. I am sure we will hear about none of this at his funeral.

  • Sandra

    I can only imagine what his wife is going through at this time. I pray that her dearest friends are reaching out to her in comfort. It amazes me to see that so many who are covering McNair in different blogs, etc., are memorializing him as some “great” person, a great giver, and charity donor. However, the legacy Steve McNair left was that he was a cheating husband with no regard for his wife, the woman he made a vow and promise to. That is his legacy; not the great man who played football and help to lead a team.

    His death has taught me to be careful who I get involved with. Furthermore, his death has affirmed in me the value God places upon marriage and the marriage bed. If you aren’t ready for marriage, then stay single. Marriage is a serious commitment, with God as the Head. My prayers are with Mechelle McNair and the children.

  • http://physicsgeekjesusfreak.blogspot.com FzxGkJssFrk

    I’ve been banging the same drum as Brian Walden for the last few days. It’s almost literally unbelievable to hear Kazemi referred to as McNair’s “girlfriend” and the references that they were “dating”. Whatever you think of McNair, if you’re married, and visiting another woman late at night several times a week, it’s called an “affair”, not “dating”, and Kazemi was McNair’s “mistress”, not “girlfriend”. The truly bizarre thing is that several of the articles I’ve seen do in fact call it an “affair” further down the page.

    More than one person has mentioned to me, as Brian did, that they didn’t even realize McNair was married from the coverage – especially from the headlines.

  • danr

    Somehow, I don’t imagine the MSM made the mistake of calling the other women of Sanford or Ensign “girlfriends”. Double-standard at work? And politicians (rightly or wrongly) taken to task more than athletes, who are almost expected to “play the field”?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Great point, danr. The reality is fidelity isn’t really expected of many people in positions of power. But when politicians screw up we pretend we expected them to be different, especially when they promised us they were.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    My questions might seem very elementary, but I know nothing about this religion except what I just read. What do the apostrophes in Baha’i and Baha’u’lah mean? Do they mean letters are being omitted for the sake of convenience? If so what letters? Why is it more convenient to leave them out? Do the apostrophes (or their equivalents) exist in the original language? Those are the first questions I wish the reporters working on this story would answer. I mean, these words seem to be extremely over-punctuated. There must be a reason. What is it?

  • jon

    “she suspected he was having an affair with another woman — no, not his wife.”
    this must be a joke. the spin-meisters are going crazy.
    he was an another immoral football player, lots of braun and very little brain, and NO morality. he was just a horny bastard that couldn’t control himself. he is a shame and discrase to his wife and sons. no amount of spin can paste over the fact that he was an unfaithful asshole. whether he got what he deserved or not, i don’t know. but to hear those black Baptist preachers singing his praises helps me understand why there are so few men and fathers in the black community. cause they also are acting out McNair’s lifestyle. the fact is, he was just another highly paid, less than intelligent, whoremonger. a rather simple case, nothing complicated about it at all.

  • carl

    One thing that bugged me from the start of this is that the media always refers to Kazemi as McNair’s girlfriend – and in the first few days they rarely even mentioned that he was married.

    The reaction to this story is bitterly ironic. Having firmly established in the culture that the primary purpose of sex is personal gratification (all other purposes being optional, and therefore secondary) we now object to people acting on the conviction that the purpose of sex is personal gratification. You can’t have it both ways. The sexual integrity of marriage cannot be defended once a libertarian sexual ethic is adopted. And you see that in spades in this story. There is no great shock and horror over this behavior – perhaps disappointment, but no scandal. The offense just isn’t considered that heinous – not as heinous for example as killing dogs.

    It is said that people do not need to be religious to understand that adultery is wrong. There are two pertinent questions that must be answered.

    1. What level of offense do people imply when they say ‘Adultery is wrong?’ Wrong as in killing dogs. Wrong as in drinking red wine with fish. The perception of moral turpitude involved is expressed through outrage. But there is no outrage here. Not even in the dreadfully bad link ed essay on how professional athletes have behaved this way for years.

    2. Why do they think adultery is wrong? Is it wrong because it violates the objective character of marriage, and corrupts the intended purpose of sex. Or perhaps only because it violates a pledge of faithfulness. Is an accusation of adultery just a dressed up way of saying “You lied to me!” And if the pledge is never made will adultery still be considered wrong? If people agree not to be faithful, is there any offense?

    A wife no longer occupies a privileged position in this culture. The offense she feels when she is discarded for another younger version is counted as of no great moral consequence. To say otherwise is to repudiate the libertarian sexual ethic that has run rampant through our culture. If sex is so insignificant that it needs no public regulation (either through law or through social stigma) then we can’t very well complain when the Steve McNair’s of the world act on that very conviction. And we shouldn’t complain when a reporter uses the word ‘girlfirend’ instead of mistress.


  • http://rahma.hadithuna.com UmmSqueakster

    MattK –

    When transliterating arabic and persian into the roman alphabet, the hamza and ayn are often represented by apostrophes.

    In arabic, the hamza (?) is a glottal stop, were as I can only think to describe the ayn (?) as the sound you make when the doctor tells you to go ahhh, if you were to scrunch the tongue towards the back of your throat. I don’t know about persian, but I believe they sound more similar in persian then they do in arabic (any persian speakers out there?).

    Since they don’t have roman alphabet or english language equivilents, they’re rendered as apostrophes

  • friend

    Kazemi was not an active Baha’i. What a horrible tragedy.

  • Robert Franck

    Not that this has to do with religion, but I don’t know how many stories I read that mentioned he had given her this fancy car. Today, I read that one of the things weighing on her mind were the car payments, that she was responsible for making. If she was making payments on the car, then he didn’t buy it for her. He might have made a down payment, but he didn’t buy it.

  • hoosier

    “As for the infidelity question, Doss said, “I am definitely disappointed in him. I just thought he would be different than others. I was really shocked to find out he had a girlfriend, especially one so young.”

    Disappointed? Me too, but it should be more than that. Though it’s really difficult to expect better from professional athletes. I’m not sure if Steve McNair was a God-fearing man — his funeral is being held tomorrow at Mount Zion Baptist — but you don’t have to be religious to know that adultery is wrong.”

    How, exactly, does this demonstrate that the press doesn’t get religion? Should the reporter have scolded the subject? “Come on, disappointed, is that the best you can do? You should be more outraged!” Should the reporter have sought out more outraged people? Or are you criticizing this woman, and not the press coverage? When commenters do that, they’re told to stick to the press coverage, not the underlying incident itself. Mayhaps you should do the same.

  • cj

    Its all such a shame..he seem like such a good family man. I would have never thought he would have done all this.
    God bless his family!!


  • Will

    An “observant Baha’i” would not have a sexual relationship outside marriage, and certainly not with a married man; would not be arrested for DUI because Baha’is are not to drink alcohol; and would commit neither murder nor suicide.

    The thing to remember, however, is that all human beings have frailties, and Ms. Kazemi, Mr. McNair and, and the rest of us sometimes allow personal integrity to be distorted in the name of things we think we want. Two lives that could have been healed are now wrapped in shame and sadness, without possibility of repair. The best result is for those of us who have witnessed this to behave better than the individuals in this unfortunate drama.

  • Julia

    Another thing I’ve noted in things like this. People are referred to by the media as “single” if they aren’t living with the spouse. Marriage is only about the fancy ceremony it seems; it’s “adultery” only if married people are still in the same house. It is no longer considered unseemly to start dating before the divorce – even if it’s a “trial separation.”

    Is there a new definition of adultery? Is it different for religious people and non-religious people?

    Is “separation” no longer a legal status, but an emotional one?

  • David


    You may not consider Ms. Kazemi to be an “observant Bahai” because she did not strictly follow Bahai laws, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t consider herself to be a Bahai or believe in Bahai teachings. I have known popular, well-respected Bahais in communities I have lived in who drank alcohol, used drugs and/or had sex outside of marriage, nevermind the more common unhealthy desire for material things. Maybe the rumors I’ve read are true and she was truly not a Bahai, but I think it is unfair and doesn’t tell the whole story to simply say Ms. Kazemi was not an “observant Bahai” therefore it in no way reflects on the Bahai community and is not an important issue for Bahais to discuss.

  • Michael

    My wife was raised as a Bahai, and is now Christian. A large part of what led her away from that faith was the very symbol posted in the article. That symbol is called “the greatest name,” and is one of the most important symbols in the Bahai faith. While written in Persian, it appears to clearly read as “evil” to English speakers (at least to this one). After I pointed out to her that it in fact read as “evil,” she was highly disturbed (to put it mildly), and left the faith immediately thereafter. She is not Persian – her mother converted back in the 60′s – and she indicated that she had never seen the word “evil” in the symbol until I pointed it out to her.

    Is the word “evil” as clear and prominant to you all as it is to me? Is this why this particular image was included in the article?

  • Parisa

    This debate is interesting. One can call himself a Christian, Baha’i, Jewish or Muslim, and it doesnt mean a darn thing if one fails to practice some of the most important tenants of the faith they adhere to. Look at the tenants of Christianity and Baha’i Faith in this case and do not judge either religion by what these two people have done while alive.

    Michael – you just sound naive. The symbol you refer to is in caligraphy. It can be written in different ways. You shun a religion based on a word. Not by the “fruits it bears” as Jesus admonished?

  • Michael


    Had you read my post carefully, you would have seen that I did not shun the Bahai faith because of this symbol. I have never been nor considered becoming a Bahai (I am indeed familiar with its history and doctrines, and I do have substantive issues with the faith which I do not care to discuss in this context). I will tell you that it was a factor in my wife’s decision to leave the faith for Christianity, however.

    May I assume from your screenname that you are a Bahai? If so, I did not intend to offend by my post, and I apologize if such offense was taken. I was simply curious why this particular image was posted along with the story. You are correct that there are numerous symbols associated with the Bahai faith, and I was wondering why this symbol – which is indeed disturbing to many English speakers – was selected. (I have found that this image is not emphasized in publications directed towards English speakers.) I was also curious why none of the other individuals responding to the post commented on the image’s appearance, considering the fact that the above-referenced word immediately jumps out at me when I see this image.

  • Dave*


    I don’t know if you’re actually serious about this or not, but I feel compelled to point out that since Arabic is written right to left, it should at least be read as LIVE.

  • Jim Beasley

    I have gotten some smiles out of the EVIL/LIVE discussion, despite the tragedy of the primary topic.

    May I offer an entirely snide and inappropriate comment to the effect that if a person changes their religion because they think they see the English word Evil or any other word (or series of 6′s or “satanic” references)then, in my opinion,that is the correct response that a person with that level of understanding.

    I am working on being a Baha’i and I don’t drink or do drugs (at my age of 73 I shouldn’t take any credit for resisting temptation of the flesh or the excesively material)…but I can’t resist the snide and inappropriate comment on something this juicy.

    We are, indeed, all human in our own unique ways. Some of us excessively so.

  • Parisa


    The beauty of this day and age, at least in the States, is that we can freely choose our own religion. And, no offense was taken at all. Thank you for reaching out. Yes, I am a practicing Baha’i and I thank God every day for the hope, light and joy it brings me, especially in these hard times facing our world.

    I wish you and your wife much happiness :)

    Jim Beasley, I like your post – very uplifting.

  • Michael

    Parisa – Thank you for your kind and gracious response. May you also find great joy and prosperity.

    Jim Beasley – I would prefer to let this issue drop, and while I would certainly do so had it been me you insulted, I will not allow your insult to my wife go unchallenged. You imply in your admittedly “snide and innappropriate” posting that my wife possesses a low level of understanding. Without going into the details, I can assure you that this is not the case. My wife had other serious legitimate issues with the Bahai faith that factored into her decision to leave (which, again, I will not go into here), and her new recognition and perception of this symbol was simply one of the final indications that she was not proceed in the Bahai faith. I will also say that I know of at least one other who was similarly influenced.

    That said, to suggest that only a “lack of understanding” could explain a negative reaction to a symbol which appears to say “evil” in the English language itself betrays a failure to appreciate the power and importance of religious symbolism, and appears to suggest that spiritual messages cannot be transmitted to humans throught the use of such signs and symbols (which would be an understandable reaction of an atheist, but not for someone who claims to be religious).

    You should not be so quick to insult, particularly when you do not know the person you are insulting.

  • Parisa

    Fred 1964, I really am not familiar with the religion you discuss. I can’t remember the last time we dropped a bomb on anyone, for any reason. Baha’i Faith is the most peaceful religion I know of and I was a religion major in college–I might add, at the number one public university in this Country.

    I grew up in a Baha’i family and attended public schools, university, grad school. No one kept me isolated. I attended Christian church, Young Life, Baha’i classes, worked for a Fortune 500 company. I also served for many years on the local Baha’i governing body for a major city in the east coast. We do not shun ANYONE. Ours is a religion of love. We work with trained counselors when people come to us for help. If someone decided to keep their issues private, we cannot help because we do not dive into private family or personal affairs without being asked.

    As to the sign/symbol, we do not hide it. We are NOT asked to hide it. The symbol glorifies GOD. The same God that every other monotheistic religion glorifies. The symbol, far from being hidden, serves as the FOCAL POINT of our House of Worship in Illinois which is OPEN to the public. It is prominently displayed in the center of the ceiling in the main hall. People of all faiths come and pray there. Heads of state have visited this House of Worship. SO much for secrecy.

    Anyway, we are all welcome to our opinions. But do not attack an entire people with or without good cause. Unless you are a judge I guess ;)

  • Parisa

    I guess Fred1964′s post got removed ;-)

  • http://theweeksend.blogspot.com Niki

    I am a Baha’i, and I’ve found this discussion interesting so far. I think we all know – if we take the time to think about it – that people of all religions and faiths do very good and very evil things – sometimes all in the same lifetime. This has been true of biblical characters, religious leaders, and ‘ordinary’ people all over the world. Some may say it is ‘human nature’ to judge others, but is that really so? Might it not be a learned response that we would do well to change?

    Baha’u’llah (this name/title means ‘Glory of God’ – the ‘llah refers to Allah/God) had this to say which I think is relevant:

    “How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul’s ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire!”

    (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265)

    In my opinion, the Baha’i Faith is the best hope this planet has for fruitfully addressing serious questions such as have been raised here. (I mean, questions like: how to appropriately handle our sexual urges and other aspects of our human selves that may interfere with the peace and well-being of ourselves and our neighbours; how to help community members who have ‘strayed’ from the ‘path’ of their own beliefs).

    I think it’s great that Brad (author of this post) brought up this topic. I don’t know if he chose the graphic that looks like the word “evil” to make a point, or not. It’s quite possible the thought never came to his mind…. in my experience some people see it immediately, but others don’t, even after a long while – that’s just the way our minds work, I think.

    Peace on earth

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Hi Niki,

    I did not choose that graphic, but now that you point it out …
    Thanks for reading and sharing.