Gary Ablett Jr, captain of the Gold Coast Suns, has made no secret of the fact that he is a Christian, and has often spoken about his faith in the media. He's even part of a life group that some of his teammates have formed. Ablett might be the best known Christian AFL player, but by no means is he the only one.
The Age carried a story on this the other day. I don't have any complaints with the article itself, but I am offended by some of the comments on the website. There are predictable remarks that footballers should keep their religious beliefs to themselves, insinuations that belief in God is a delusion, and anti-American and inaccurate suggestions that American churches are deliberately using impressionable Australian celebrities and sportspeople to market themselves in Australia.
Professional sport is highly pressured and demanding. AFL players are young men who often earn a lot of money and adulation from the public. To that can be added the shady characters trying to take advantage of them, and the predatory groupies, whose world was explored in the 2006 documentary, Footy Chicks. It's also an open secret that one of the highest paid players in the league allegedly set himself and achieved the goal of sleeping with 100 women in 100 days.
Unless they're studying part time for their post retirement career, when they're not playing or training, they often have a lot of spare time on their hands. How often does an AFL player get in trouble for drink driving, mixing with shady characters, getting into a nightclub or pub brawl, a gambling addiction, or for their relationship problems?
If Ablett and other players can find something that keeps them grounded and level headed, what's wrong with that? To them, good sportsmanship is a way of honouring God with their lives. Their faith isn't just something they do in church for a couple of hours on a Sunday. It informs everything they do in life. Besides, there's plenty of players who use their profiles to support a myriad of causes. Why not support the cause of Christ?