USA Today editor wants Promise Keepers barred from Cowboys' stadium over views on trans athletes

An aerial drone view of AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys NFL football team plays, on April 01, 2020 in Arlington, Texas.
An aerial drone view of AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys NFL football team plays, on April 01, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. | Getty Images/Tom Pennington

The head of the all-male evangelical organization Promise Keepers has responded to a column published by USA Today calling for AT&T Stadium in Texas to cancel an upcoming men's conference over his views on trans-identified men competing in women's sports. 

In a May 5 column in the national newspaper, race and inequality sports editor Mike Freeman argued that the words of Promise Keepers CEO Ken Harrison from a recent interview should disqualify the organization from hosting a rally at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play their home games.

"One of the things they're doing to make their agenda happen is destroying the identity of the American people, and if they can get Christians, especially Christian men, to sit down, be silent and be passive, then they can be effective," Harrison said in the interview quoted in the editorial.  

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"It's working. Christian men are not standing up for what's right. I mean, you think about how quickly we went from homosexual marriage to men putting on dresses, being called women, and playing on women's basketball teams. Where are the Christian men?"

The USA Today columnist asserted that such comments "shouldn't be anywhere near an NFL team." He called on the stadium to cancel the Promise Keepers Men’s Conference scheduled for July 16 and July 17 at AT&T Stadium, where thousands are expected to attend.

“By allowing this conference to happen at one of football's meccas, and by AT&T allowing it, they are helping to mainstream hate speech,” Freeman contended, adding that “a company like AT&T shouldn't be associated with them, either.”

"His hateful words continue a trend of right-wing leaders and lawmakers attacking the transgender community. There are a number of anti-trans bills popping up all across the country. This is just bigotry. There's no other way to say it."

In response, Harrison said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post that the USA Today column calling on the stadium to disallow the Promise Keepers event is "nothing unusual."

"It happens to Christian men in America every day,” Harrison stressed. “In cubicles, boardrooms, broadcast booths, and classrooms all over America, men who express a Biblical position are shamed, ostracized, cautioned by HR, sued, and fired. No wonder men are passive — that's the intent of the forces of political correctness.”

Promise Keepers, an evangelical parachurch organization for men, was founded in 1990 by former football coach Bill McCartney. Its goal is to help men live with integrity. According to its website, the lives of over 7 million men have been touched through Promises Keepers conferences over the years. In 1997, over 1 million men gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Promise Keepers was relaunched in 2016 after years of stagnation. Harrison believes that a revival is at hand and that it will start with men. 

According to the CEO, even more tickets to the event in Arlington, Texas, have been sold since the editorial was published. 

Prominent evangelical leader Franklin Graham voiced his support for the organization in a social media post. 

“This USA Today writer thinks that the AT&T Stadium shouldn’t be associated with Promise Keepers and that the organization shouldn’t be ‘anywhere near an NFL team’ because of their biblical stand on sexual identity and marriage being defined as between a man and a woman,” Graham wrote.

“This is the cancel culture speaking. The issue is religious freedom. This event is not ‘anti-trans hate’ as it is being described, but rather the freedom to believe, share, study, and celebrate biblical truth in love.”

Harrison said Promise Keepers is calling on men to “be bold” and to “stand up for their faith.” 

“Christ followers must stand up against the cultural onslaught against Biblical values and what it means to be a man,” he said. “We’re calling men to come together and rise up — not just across America but around the world."

“Promise Keepers is not against anything," Harrison continued. "Instead, we’re calling men to be all that God has called them to be, to lock shields in friendship and encouragement with other men, to be men of integrity, to love and cherish our wives, and to be active in raising our sons and daughters.”

When asked if he regrets telling USA Today that culture is "blurring the lines" of sexual identity, Harrison said both he and Promise Keepers “subscribe to a Biblical worldview when it comes to male and female.”

“[A]nd that’s one of the religious freedoms we celebrate in our nation,” he argued. “Sometimes we agree with culture, and sometimes we don’t.”

Approximately 80,000 Christian men are expected to attend the July event.  

The call to bar Promise Keepers from using AT&T Stadium comes on the heels of another op-ed published by the outlet suggesting that Oral Roberts University — whose basketball team made the Sweet 16 of NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year — be banned from official competition over its policies on human sexuality. 

The Oklahoma Christian university adheres to the historic teachings of the faith regarding marriage and sexual ethics and prohibits students from engaging in homosexual acts and same-sex marriage. 

“The NCAA has always been more about paying lip service to ideals of equality and inclusion than action, but Oral Roberts inclusion in the men’s tournament proves how little they actually care about those words, which are emblazoned on their basketball courts,” wrote Hemal Jhaveri, former editor and columnist at USA Today’s For the Win outlet, in a March 23 editorial. 

“The fact is, any and all anti-LGBTQ+ language in any school’s [policies] should ban them from NCAA competition.”

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