Faith and football collide on area public high school fields
The 1,800-word story, published this week, starts with a revealing anecdote:
Suitland football Coach Ed Shields called his team to the middle of the field after a mid-September practice and told the players the three-hour session was a waste. They would have to be better tomorrow, he screamed. Then he told them to pray, before storming off the field.
Every player took a knee, helmets off, sweat dripping, and each put a hand on another’s shoulder. The boys continued to bicker about football and how angry their coach was, and that’s when senior Steven Rivers came to the front.
“Stop talking!” Rivers shouted. A few players didn’t. Rivers looked at them. “You’re on this team, right?”
Eventually it was silent, and the players bowed their heads and recited the Lord’s Prayer. Rivers, who grew up in nearby Greenbelt, lowered his head, too.
As a Muslim, he’s not supposed to be saying a Christian prayer. But he’s a team leader and, as he sees it, if you play for Suitland, you kneel and pray before and after every practice, before and after every game.
“I’m not even supposed to be saying the prayer. But I do it for my team, because I’m a captain,” said Rivers, 17. “I say my own prayer.”
Shields said the prayer is not mandatory, but reciting it is rooted in the football culture at this public school in the heart of Prince George’s County.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this story.
On the one hand, I like that the Post quotes real people — players, coaches, school officials, the Christian mother of the Muslim player (whose father is Muslim). It would be easy for a story such as this to get bogged down in attorneys and legalese. And it is a high school sports story, after all.
On the other hand, the story feels rather shallow to me — seeming to string together a bunch of “high school sports and religion” tidbits without really connecting the dots.
This is the nut graf: