Affirmation of God as unsportsmanlike conduct

Sportsmen have been praising God and crediting him for their achievements since before the days of the Gipper. But now, such praise has been deemed unsportsmanlike conduct by a high school referee.

Fox News reports:

A Christian high school quarterback was flagged by the referee when he showed a simple sign of faith by briefly raising a finger to the sky after scoring a 73-yard touchdown.

17-year-old Dante Turo of Syracuse, NY, told “Fox and Friends” that he was only trying to give praise to God.

“Pointing up to God is kind of an international symbol of giving praise to Jesus, and that’s all I was trying to do,” Duro said.

But the ref cited him for unsportsmanlike conduct. The team was penalized 15 yards and went on to lose the game.

Taunting an opponent has been considered unsportsmanlike conduct. So too, excessive celebration.

I have mixed feelings about these rules. Taunting is certainly distasteful to non-athletes who observe it. But mild taunting may be consistent with the modern athletic culture (which would mean that it’s not “unsportsmanlike”); it doesn’t necessarily constitute disrespect of the opponent. Thus, it’s not clear to me that sport should regulate this sort of speech and conduct.

Some forms of celebration feel bush league — “act like you’ve been in the end zone before” is good advice. But shouldn’t guys who are risking life, limb, and concussions be allowed to have some fun when they succeed?

In any event, praising God isn’t taunting an opponent. If anything, it’s the opposite — an expression of modesty that transcends both player and opponent.

Nor, under any reasonable standard, is pointing a finger to the sky “excessive celebration.” It’s the normal, quiet reaction of a player who believes God is behind his success.

Should a football player be penalized for quietly affirming that belief? Of course not. Let’s hope that the referee who imposed the penalty wasn’t trying to drive God off the football field to that extent.