More Sports Teams Turning to Faith Community

An increasing number of sports teams are using a similar marketing strategy to get people to come out to ballparks and arenas – faith.

Major League Baseball teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants will hold, or already have held, promotions for Christian groups this season.

The Giants are also planning a Jewish Heritage and LDS Family Night. The Oakland A’s will hold a Jewish Heritage Night with fans getting an A’s yarmulke. The Philadelphia Phillies will also hold a Jewish Heritage Night. The Florida Marlins are offering an Inspirational Forum. And the Colorado Rockies will hold their fifth Faith Day for people of all faiths.

Other sports teams are doing faith-based promotions as well, including the NBA’s Golden State Warriors (Jewish Heritage Night) and the NHL’s Florida Panthers (Jewish Heritage Night). A Minor League Baseball team in Omaha is planning a Catholic Night.

Not every faith-based promotion begins in a stadium boardroom though. Sometimes, a person like Judy Boen contacts a team and asks them to hold the event. Boen wrote a letter to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1989 and two years later, Christian Family Day was born at Busch Stadium.

Over the years, Boen arranged for St. Louis players such as Rex Hudler, Bob Tewksbury, Tony Fossas, Danny Sheaffer and Albert Pujols to share their testimonies with the crowd. The Christian Family Day website chronicles several stories about how God used the event.

“One year, we had a Cardinal player accept Jesus Christ,” Boen says on the website. “Tony Fossas was a pitcher and Danny Sheaffer, a catcher, for the Cardinals, and they knew that John Frascatore was having some problems. So, after they gave us their testimony, they spoke with John and he became a Christian right there in center field.”

Boen said she got a call from a man who is 25 now. He attended one of the first Christian Family Days as a child. He described himself as being “pretty rebellious,” but after hearing his favorite player give his testimony he thought, “Wow, this guy believes what my parents believe, and, so, I accepted Christ that day.”

Boen no longer runs Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium. The CFD website says the Cardinals ended the 19-year relationship because they wanted to take over the primary planning, responsibility and control of the annual event. But the CFD was able to hold a Christian Family Day at the Gateway International Raceway in 2010.

Of course, some are skeptical about faith-based promotions – no matter which religion is being recognized.

An April 9 article in USA Today reported that Blair Scott, a spokesman for American Atheists, believes these types of promotions are unethical, going on to say, “They’re out to make a buck. They’re taking advantage of people’s religiosity to make that buck.”

And, according to the article, some want equal time for other religions.

“The ultimate test of this kind of policy would be to have a Muslim Family Day – and gauge the public reaction to it,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Given the heightened state of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, I have a feeling there would be some objections to that.”

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