ESPN Airs Gospel Celebration

ESPN and ESPN Classic aired a special broadcast of the 10th Anniversary Super Bowl Gospel Celebration on Sunday as part of their Super Bowl Sunday programming line-up.

The broadcast marked ESPN's first-ever airing of a faith-based program and provided a larger platform for the first and only gospel event sanctioned by the National Football League for Super Bowl Weekend.

"We are honored to continue our longstanding partnership with the NFL in producing what has emerged as the premiere, family-oriented entertainment event where players and fans can come together and share in an inspirational evening during Super Bowl weekend," said Melanie Few, president of Results, Inc., and the event's founder and executive producer.

"We thank all the players, fans, dignitaries and everyone that made the tenth presentation of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration a success," she added.

Held at University of South Florida's Sun Dome, the NFL-sanctioned concert celebrated a decade of bridging faith and football through the rich heritage of gospel music. Since its inception, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration has drawn crowds in the thousands and has demonstrated growth year-over-year, with recent sellouts of venues in major markets hosting the Super Bowl including Miami, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, and Phoenix. The idea behind the event is to provide athletes and fans a safe, entertaining venue to celebrate the Super Bowl and also to be inspired by the uplifting sounds and rich culture of Gospel music.

"We are going to stomp. We are going to praise. And we are going to do it all night," said Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens during Friday night's event, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Throughout the night, gospel headliners Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp and Hezekiah Walker shared the stage with an impressive list of NFL stars, including the more than two dozen players comprising the NFL Players All-Star Choir.

During the event, host Mischelle Turner also interviewed NFL players such as Tommie Harris of the Chicago Bears, Clifton Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jon Kitna of the Detroit Lions and many others to fill the hour with stories of faith.

Another highlight of the evening was the tribute staged in honor of former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who announced his retirement as coach of the Indianapolis Colts last month after 31 years in the NFL and one year after becoming the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl. Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris, and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., were among the many prominent figures in attendance at this year's show.

Also joining from the NFL were five-time Pro-Bowl selection Mark Clayton (Baltimore Ravens), three-time Pro-Bowl selection Tommie Harris (Chicago Bears), 2002 first-round draft pick Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota Vikings), 2006 All-Pro selection Ovie Mughelli (Atlanta Falcons), and wide-receiver David Tyree (New York Giants), famed for his helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Retired NFL players included Henry Lawrence (Oakland Raiders), Dexter Clinkscale (Dallas Cowboys), and Don Davis (New England Patriots), among others.

Next year's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration will follow the NFL championship game to Miami, which will host Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is traditionally held on the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday.