NFL 2015: Should Christians watch?


Later today, the National Football League (NFL) is scheduled to begin its official season for this violent sport. Many do not wish to seriously consider that American football is harmful, despite the facts, and would prefer that I not post about it.

The Bible suggests otherwise:

1 Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)

The reality is that American tackle football is dangerous–the players get harmed.  This really is not debatable as it is an established fact.  Notice the following:

September 5, 2015

Though ligament tears and broken bones are well-known, all of those violent hits football players take could be leading to hypertension and potentially chronic and traumatic brain injuries, researchers at Georgia Regents University say. …

The GRU team focused its attention on what are called damage-associated molecular patterns, which would be released during violent hits. The NFL estimates that linemen receive 100 to 130 hits per game, Webb said. The damage to cells releases those factors, which then activate other factors and receptors well known for being involved in inflammation.

Those receptors are on blood vessel cells and immune cells as well, according to the GRU study. They have been shown to be involved in inflammation in the brain, where concussions and their long-term consequences are already a concern for football players. One devastating outcome could be chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which leads to widespread brain damage and for many
former players memory loss, confusion, behavioral changes and dementia.

“I definitely think, related to the concussions, that hypertension during the season could make their CTE prognosis worse,” McCarthy said. Or those factors might contribute to conditions that would lead to that chronic traumatic damage on their own, he said. …

Earlier this year, the NFL agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by former players that would pay for those who had incurred certain conditions, including “certain cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy … diagnosed after death,”

September 3, 2014

The NFL reported 228 cases of diagnosed concussions in the 2013 season. Research has revealed prolonged head injuries suffered playing football have lead to dementia, cognitive decline, ALS and Parkinson’s among its players.

Football Players At All Levels At Concussion Risk

September 3, 2014

Concussions and traumatic brain injury don’t just affect former NFL players, they strike high school players and college players as well. …

More than a dozen former NFL players have filed concussion injury lawsuits against the NFLPA. These players claim the Players Association was aware of concussion dangers for decades, but ignored and hid the risks from players.

According to the Complaints filed against the NFLPA, the players association “had unparalleled access to and knowledge of data relating to the relationship between head impacts on football players and cognitive decline. This access to and knowledge of data [came] from the NFLPA’s awareness of the growing body of scientific literature on the subject, its own medical consultants, its own requested and commissioned studies on the subject, its participation in the Retirement Board of the Bert Bell/Peter Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan (“Retirement Plan”), and its participation in the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (the “MTBI Committee”).”

The claims brought against the NFLPA are different from those alleged against the NFL itself in other litigation. Players with claims against the NFL are not precluded from bringing claims against the NFLPA and may participate in both cases. …

Florio, writing for NBC Sports, went on to note that “ammunition for attacking the NFLPA has existed from the moment the notion of suing over concussions first gained traction…. Indeed, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith admitted during testimony to Congress in 2009 that the union had a role in alleged resistance to efforts of doctors and others to wake football up to the perils of head injuries.”

“Sadly, the players association knew for years about the medical science behind the dangers of the game, and in spite of their promises to do what was in the best interest of their members, they joined the league in hiding those dangers from everyone. These former pro players should be proud of themselves for stepping up, because they’re standing up and saying that they would have behaved differently if the players association hadn’t been complicit with the league in hiding their full knowledge from them. If this action through the court system would have been available to me when I was just out of the league, I would have been alongside them as part of the lawsuit.”

– Jim Kearney, starting safety for the Super Bowl IV Champion Kansas City Chiefs

There is no doubt that American tackle football is dangerous to health. While some in the world consider watching it to be an ‘ethical uncertainty,’ true Philadelphia Christians (as well many who are not) realize that something about this sport is physically harmful and should not be encouraged.

On a ‘Here’s Lucy’ show from 1972, Joe Namath told Lucille Ball that although football was tough, the physical damage was temporary and was nothing to worry about as the body heals.  But he was in the news related to what happened to him:

The picture of Joe Namath forgetting why he had just walked into a particular room or losing his keys is a sad one, but one we’ve come to expect for retired NFL players. That’s how an feature about the 72-year-old Hall of Fame quarterback starts, detailing how he also struggled with depression and fears he has brain damage from the many blows he’s taken in his career.  …

There’s also this detail about how Namath used to take his painkillers with liquor:

“Doctors routinely treated his pain with Percocet and Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory typically used on horses. They told him to take the medications on a full stomach; concerned about staying in shape, Namath washed them down with Johnnie Walker Red instead. [Later, he switched to vodka.]”

Joe Namath is the latest former NFL player who has admitted the concussions he suffered during his career have had negative, long-lasting effects.

Namath, famous for guaranteeing the Jets’ Super Bowl victory in 1969 and then going out and backing up his words with a shocking takedown of the heavily favored Colts, told “CBS Sunday Morning” in an upcoming interview head injuries sustained during his playing career have adversely affected his health.

Joe Namath indicated that the alternative therapy known as hyperbaric oxygen has helped him.  But he still was damaged by playing tackle football.

Those who claim that encouraging American tackle football is fine are NOT Philadelphian Christians.  American tackle football causes real damage.  Damage that should not be encouraged.

After a post I made before about American football (see Should Christians watch American football?), a reader sent me an email, that in part stated:

Hello Dr. Thiel,
It took a while, but your recent article “Should Americans Watch Football?” finally convinced me the answer is “NO”. I can see why I stubbornly held out. I think it is ADDICTION that causes football lovers to cover their eyes from the truth. Who can deny the thrill and ectasy of cheering on our super talented sports heroes and winning teams. Who can give up the hamburgers, hot dogs , potato chips, soda and beer along with it? I admit I have been a big sports addict especially to American football!
Well, what turned me off the most was the Super Bowl ads on t.v. years ago. I started refusing to watch the Super Bowl with my family (it was too embarrassing) or with church friends.

From the violence on the field, to the under-clothed cheerleaders, to some of the half-time antics, there is a lot wrong with American football.

Jesus taught not to intentionally hurt others, as it taught:

39… ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39, NKJV)

The Apostle Paul also wrote:

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it (Ephesians 5:29, NKJV)

Also, notice what John the Baptist taught soldiers:

14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. (Luke 3:14, KJV)

I could not reconcile loving my neighbor as myself and cherishing my flesh and not doing violence to any man by watching others do it in a football game. Nor the following:

9…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10)

Jesus also said:

20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:20-21, NKJV).

Is watching American football a deed that would be pleasing to God?

The Apostle Paul wrote:

12… they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.(2 Thessalonians 2:12)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32, NKJV)

Is not football violent and often unmerciful?

So, if playing football is evil, should Christians approve of it?

Additionally, twice the New Testament refers to the good news message as “the gospel of peace”:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15)

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (Ephesians 6:14-15)

Is not taking a stand against encouraging sports violence consistent with the gospel of peace and love? Or should ministers tell people that violent sports like American tackle football are not “inherently evil” as at least one minister has done?

Traditionally, early Christians (as well as some apostates who professed Christ) were opposed to watching violent sports.

While “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:9), what do sports like American football and boxing do? Should Bible believers encourage this?

Unlike stories of violence in books or movies, American football involves actual violence and often physical injury–including brain damaging ones that are often not obvious for years.

The Bible forbids harming others or encouraging sin. Early professors of Christ would not watch violent games as they felt that watching was encouraging and participating in sin. Herbert W. Armstrong categorized American football as evil.

You may be telling yourself, well since my church does not (presuming you do not support a group like the Continuing Church of God which does) condemn football (and/or possibly encourages it) the Bible really does not apply here. If so, be careful about accepting that that type of tradition. Jesus Himself taught:

7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:7-9)

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:14-19)

I do not watch American football. I consider that it is evil (also, no Christian can really defend how professional football cheerleading females are often publicly dressed and displayed). Others want to falsely act like there is nothing wrong with watching it.

Some may not wish to hear about any of the evils of violent sports, and instead prefer smooth things, but hopefully I have tried to follow the Apostle Paul who declared:

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27)

The bodies and blood of those who engage in violent sports is important. It does not show Philadelphia love.

Regarding American football, do you believe that Jesus or the Apostle Paul would endorse it? This is something that Christians, and those that claim to be, should think and pray about.

Those Laodicean Christians who are fans of American tackle football are NOT Philadelphians and will be subject to violence themselves as they will have to go through the Great Tribulation if they do not repent (Revelation 3:14-22).

Encouraging violence in sports does not show brotherly/philadelphian love.

For more scriptures, as well as the position of early Christians and others, please see the following:

Is American Football Evil? Is the most popular spectator sport in the USA something that Christians should watch? What do the Bible and early writings show? There is also a YouTube video available titled Should Christians watch American football?
Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence? Here are current and historical perspectives on a matter which show the beliefs of the true church on military participation. Is war proper for Christians? A related sermon would be: Christians, Violence, and Military Service.
Pornography: A scourge on society Is pornography harmless fun? Does the Bible teach anything about it? What are the views of some involved with it? Here is a link to a YouTube video Pornography: Harmless Fun or a Scourge on Society?
British and American Moral Decay Public nudity is becoming more prevalent in the Anglo-lands. What are some of the consequences?
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots. They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent.

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