The NFL often criticized for players who do bad things. It’s all over the news when an NFL player does something wrong. What most people don’t know is that the NFL has programs, services and resources available to their players to assist them in doing the right thing, in having a career after their NFL playing experience, and being role models to a society whose children need someone to look up to. In reality, if a player is fortunate enough to make it to the NFL, there is no reason in the world that he cannot be a success in life. I know. Part of what I do involves strategic character and leadership development for the NFL. The vast majority of NFL players are successful, positive contributors to society.
Behind all the glamour at the Super Bowl are meeting after meeting focusing on character development-most of which are conducted by Christian men and women who care. The NFL stresses and encourages good character and excellence. We see this in its Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to the player who exemplifies character and excellence both on and off the field. All of the 32 teams nominate a player who does outstanding work in the community and is a role model to fans-young and old, alike. The nominees each receive donations of $5,000 in their name to a charity of their choice (usually their own foundation that does great work in the community). The winner is awarded $50,000 for charity work.
Many NFL players are Christians. Super Bowl week is full of meetings and activities conducted by Christians. For example, Tony Dungy’s organization, All Pro Dads presents an All Pro Dad of the Year award during Super Bowl week at its Faith, Family and Football breakfast. This year’s recipient is Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. He played 15 years in the NFL and is the only NFL player to be awarded all four of the NFL character awards the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the Whizzer White NFL Man of the Year award, the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award. In addition, NFL players and their families worship the Lord in the annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration.
This year, the Bart Starr award went to Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots. This award is presented by Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. It goes to the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and in the home, on the field and in the community. Slater’s father, Jackie, also won the award. Awards such as these are just indicators of how the NFL and football in general promotes leadership and character among its players and coaches. It’s real easy to find offense if you are looking for it, and the news media does a good job pointing those things out. But let’s not ignore the positive things that people do, including football players, who many will say that they are 1 Corinthian 10:32 men-in whatsoever they do, they “do all to the glory of God.”