Sports Illustrated Smears Coach Kennedy
I met Jesus at Sports Illustrated.
It was 1993. I had been working for the magazine’s circulation department for three years. I was at the end of myself and wanted to die.
My boss noticed. She suggested she might know the problem I had and led me to the Lord one afternoon as the sun streamed in through the windows of her corner office.
The Son streamed into my heart that day, and I was filled with gratitude for this marketplace ministry at a company founded by Henry Luce, the son of missionaries to China. Ultimately, Luce’s kingdom would span several major magazines — including Time, Life, Fortune, Sports Illustrated (SI), People and Entertainment Weekly — most of which I worked for at one point or another in my 20+ year career in magazine marketing.
But as is the way with earthly kingdoms, Luce’s was bought and sold multiple times and now those once-mighty magazines that are still publishing are dispersed among various owners. Authentic Brands Group now owns SI.
When I worked at SI in the 1990s, the magazine reported on and treated the Christian faith of those sports stars who adorn its pages with respect. But as I read the Breitbart essay excerpted below, I wonder if the Christian legacy of the magazine and its original founder has been hijacked by an anti-Christ agenda.
Greg Bishop, the author of the SI piece, claims conservatives have coopted Coach Kennedy into the long standing debate about separation of church and state, but Bishop perpetuates a common misunderstanding about the establishment clause — that it requires suppression of all religious activities from the public square. In fact the First Amendment’s intent and language prohibits government suppression of religious expression.
Warner Todd Hudson’s Breitbart piece tackles many of the flaws in Bishop’s piece, but Hudson focuses on an increasingly common tactic used by legacy media writers when they confront powerful opposition: Character assassination. Coach Kennedy is portrayed as a bumbling, but crafty, bozo convenient to the cause of many, including satanists, Christians and media.
And perhaps also convenient to Bishop’s cause as well, judging from this statement from his original article: “Kennedy’s life is now part of the public domain, an emblem to be viewed, utilized and manipulated for others’ aims.”
“Lord, we ask You to forgive those who are using Coach Kennedy to smear Christians and to mischaracterize the establishment clause in the First Amendment. We know the truth, and He sets us free. Lord, please free those hostile to the gospel and especially this SI writer and all those involved. Deliver them from evil and into salvation. Protect Coach Kennedy and those Christian athletes and coaches who stand and kneel only for Jesus. Take the evil intended by the SI piece and turn it to the good for the glory of Christ and the salvation of souls. In Jesus’ Name. Amen”
(Joyce Swingle is an IFA Contributing Writer and Pray with Others Live prayer leader.)
Analysis. From Breitbart. Sports Illustrated blasted the coming Supreme Court decision that is likely to affirm that a high school football coach can pray during a game, with the magazine calling that move an “erosion” of a bedrock principle of American democracy.
Writing for the magazine, Greg Bishop falsely claimed that expressing religious ideas in government-supported schools violates the concept of “separation of church and state.” However, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld certain religious expression in schools on multiple occasions, not to mention that attacks on religion in schools are a modern trend that formed little part of court cases until the modern age.
The case was brought to the SCOTUS by Bremerton High School assistant coach Joe Kennedy who was sanctioned back in by his school district in 2015 for praying on the field with his players….
Tellingly, when Bishop goes to describe “The Stakes” of this case, he reports it solely from the left-wing, anti-religion side of the case calling Christians “white nationalists” and “Christian nationalists” who want to destroy American democracy. In his “The Stakes” section, Bishop does not once quote the side supporting Kennedy’s right to pray on school property. Instead, he only quotes those wishing to end Kennedy’s religious freedoms.
Further down in the story, Bishop finally gets around to telling readers about First Liberty, the group representing Kennedy pro bono in the case, but does not give them much by direct quotes, only his summation of their ideas and words. And nowhere in the story does Bishop cite any cases that might tend to support the coach’s religious free speech….
The main focus of Bishop’s article, though, seems to be to belittle coach Kennedy. Throughout the piece, Bishop constantly describes Kennedy as “aimless,” shiftless, and struggling to find meaning in his life, thereby coloring the coach as a nobody whose sudden fame earned as a result of this case makes him a joke of a human being. As if any of Kennedy’s life history makes any difference at all to the case that has brought him to the Supreme Court….
Bishop’s contempt for coach Kennedy oozes from this piece and is best revealed in one of the last paragraphs of this smear job:
“Does Kennedy know? Does he care? Or did he evolve to embrace playing the “hero,” and having this large of a purpose? Maybe the political operatives who stood with him found the perfect mark, a man in search of a calling, a grand stage. They gave him the biggest theater imaginable—the Supreme Court—to further their agenda, while groups fighting for their own aims joined in. After all, football never drove Kennedy, nor did faith, until more recently. But this saga of faith-and-football now reads like Kennedy’s own Christian football movie. He’s the hero. He wins, and for everyone on his side….“
This Sports Illustrated article is little else but a long smear against Christians, conservatives, and white people in general, and coach Kennedy in particular, and on a vicious personal level, at that.
How are you praying for Coach Kennedy as he fights for his religious freedom? Share your thoughts and prayers below.
(Intro by Joyce Swingle, IFA Contributing Writer, and excerpt from Breitbart. Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Author Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and contributing writer for Intercessors for America. With her husband Drama Evangelist Rich, Joyce shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theatre and speaking. Joyce also has performed on screen. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. She and Rich live in New York City.
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