Faith, Football and Prayer: As American as Apple Pie

August 25, 2023
Football Prayer | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

On Sept. 1, Coach Joe Kennedy returns to Bremerton High School for his first game following his Supreme Court win. Thanks to the landmark decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, new doors are being opened for all Americans to express their beliefs and live out their faith.

To celebrate Coach Kennedy’s comeback, we’re calling on everyone to take part in the First Freedom Challenge: Take a Knee with Coach Kennedy campaign. We’re asking Americans to take a knee wherever they are in personal private prayer on Friday, Sept. 1.

This is a simple yet powerful step we can take to restore faith in our schools and communities. It could even help spark revival throughout our country.

As we look forward to Coach Kennedy’s comeback, let’s examine how important faith is in the sport of football. Prayer on the field is a cherished and longstanding tradition practiced by countless athletes, coaches and fans.

Prayer on the Gridiron

Religious expression in American sports has a rich history. Over the 250 years of our nation’s existence, there’s been a close relationship between religion and athletics. Some scholars trace it back to the first European settlers who landed in North America.

More recently, sports fans are familiar with Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow. From his earliest days in the spotlight, Tebow boldly displayed his faith on the field—scrawling Bible verses on his eye black, pointing upward to God after a good play, or praising his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” at press conferences.

But, the most iconic image was Tebow taking a knee to pray. He was not the first, but he inspired many others to follow his lead.

Tebow Prayer | First Liberty Institute

In football and many other sports, pre- or post-game prayers are remarkably American. From Friday Night Lights at high schools across the country, college bowl games, even Super Bowl Sunday, it’s common to see players and coaches praying and living out their faith.

Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes—arguably the face of the National Football League today—kneels in prayer before each game. In an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mahomes said:

“I walk the field, and I just do a prayer at the goal post, and I thank God for those opportunities, and I thank God for just letting me be on a stage where I can glorify Him. And I feel like the biggest thing that I pray for is that whatever happens, win or lose, success or failure, that I’m glorifying Him and doing everything the right way that He wants me to.”

Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts—Mahomes’ rival during Super Bowl 57—also keeps his faith front-and-center. Like Tebow and Mahomes, he’s often seen taking a knee in prayer.

Football Prayer | First Liberty Institute
Football Prayer | First Liberty Institute

During the 2022 NFL season, the bond between faith and football was on full display. After Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a game, players and staff quickly took a knee in a massive, yet intimate, circle on the field. Fans prayed in the stands.

Those watching the game that Monday night witnessed the team’s chaplain, Len Vanden Bos, leading the group in a moment of spontaneous prayer. The hushed crowd at Paycor Stadium burst into applause as the players knelt and again as they rose.

Fli Insider | America Prays | Damar Hamlin

As the young man lay helpless, we saw something profound. America responded by doing much more than simply saying “get well soon.” Millions around the country turned to God in prayer.

And in a bold, public display of faith, former NFL quarterback and now ESPN host Dan Orlovsky paused in the middle of a live TV broadcast to pray:

Orlovsky’s prayer was received with widespread praise. And it wasn’t only evident on ESPN. The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece titled “How Damar Hamlin Drove a Nation to Pray.” The New York Times featured a surprisingly positive article on the bond between football and religion.

These, of course, are just a handful of examples among countless expressions of faith that have recently taken place. Whether on the biggest stage or a local high school game, anyone who watches football is bound to come across a display of faith. There’s no denying that it’s an integral part of the experience.

Sept. 1: Join Us for Friday Night Rights

Sept. 1 will be a national night of prayer for everyone who’s been cheering for Coach on his long journey back to the field. We encourage you—and every American—to show your support and join us in the First Freedom Challenge!

Here’s How YOU Can Help:

  • Take the First Freedom Challenge – Commit to praying wherever you are on Friday, Sept. 1. Sign up at
  • Record a short video message – up to 1-minute in length – or take a photo expressing:
    • Why expressions of faith and the right to pray are important
    • Why you are taking part in the First Freedom Challenge and Taking a Knee to Pray with Coach Kennedy
    • Asking players, coaches, parents and fans to pray after games
  • Share your message on social media using the following hashtags: #TakeAKneeWithCoach #FirstFreedomChallenge #RestoringFaithInAmerica

How Churches, Ministries and Organizations Can Get Involved:

  • Join a coalition of ministries and organizations and commit to praying with Coach Kennedy on Friday, Sept. 1. Go to rfia.og/partner to sign-up
  • Share a short video message – up to 1-minute in length – or a photo encouraging friends and followers to take the First Freedom Challenge and, starting on Sept. 1, pray after football games.
  • Post messages throughout the month encouraging friends and followers to take the First Freedom Challenge on social media using the following hashtags: #TakeAKneeWithCoach #FirstFreedomChallenge #RestoringFaithInAmerica

Take a Knee with Coach Joe | First Liberty Insider

Social Facebook Social Instagram Twitter X Icon | First Liberty Institute Social Youtube Social Linkedin

Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyState DisclosuresSitemap • © 2024 Liberty Institute® is a trademark of First Liberty Institute