Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out


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The Clemson secondary unit saying a short prayer before the Spring game.
The Clemson secondary unit saying a short prayer before the Spring game.

The comic strip Peanuts was a favorite of mine growing up, and one of my best and earliest memories of watching the strip come to life on television back in the 1970’s was seeing the ever-faithful Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch, waiting on the Great Pumpkin.

Deep into the night, Linus turns to Charlie Brown and says, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

The Great Pumpkin might not be a hot topic of conversation around internet message boards, the office water coolor or social media, but religion and politics are hot-button topics that inflame even the meekest of personalities. That is true, especially in the South, where college football is a religion unto its own and where fans cheer, support and defend their chosen program with something of a religious fervor.

However, one group thinks that Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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has taken his Christian beliefs a little too far. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint to Clemson University, citing "constitutional concerns about how the public university's football program is entangled with religion."

The group has urged the university to cease the athletics department’s emphasis on prayers, Bible studies and other religious activities, including busing players to local churches for Sunday services. In the complaint, foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott said “Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program. We are concerned that this commingling of religion and athletics results, not from student initiative, but rather from the attitudes and unconstitutional behaviors of the coaching staff.”

As one person said to me recently, the complaint set forth by the foundation makes it sound like team meetings are more like fire and brimstone tent revival meetings, and your spot on the depth chart is based off of how many Bible studies you lead.

That statement is perhaps a little too off the wall, but the truth of the matter is that even the media doesn’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but former players certainly do. Seeking to find a little bit of the truth and perhaps a little bit of a reality check, TigerNet checked in with several to get their take on the touchy subject.

Former safety DeAndre McDanielDeAndre McDaniel
Wide Receiver (2007 - 2010)
#2 6-1, 180
Tallahassee, FL

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- who played for Clemson from 2007-2010 – says the foundation has no idea what it’s talking about.

"I can't really speak on what's happening now, but religion was never forced on anybody and nothing was mandatory,” McDaniel said. “It didn't matter if you were a Christian or weren't a Christian. They never said you have to get up and go to church. Like the service they had before a game - I went now and then but not all the time. That's the way everybody was.”

McDaniel then said that the foundation is shedding a bad light on the university.

“This looks bad for Coach Swinney. I hate it that this foundation comes out and they really don't know what they are talking about,” he said. “That's bad news on him. It makes him look bad and makes the Clemson program look bad as a whole. And I know that really isn't how it is going."

The first time religion at Clemson was really brought to light occurred in 2012, when former wide receiver DeAndre HopkinsDeAndre Hopkins
Wide Receiver (2010 - 2012)
#6 6-2, 205
Central, SC

View Full Profile
was baptized at practice. That drew the ire of more than a few people who think that incident crossed the line of separation between church and state.

McDaniel doesn’t agree.

"I thought it was great. That was a guy who wanted to give his life over to the Lord, and he wanted to make sure his teammates were there. If that had happened at church, maybe some of them wouldn't have been there. He wanted to make sure his teammates were there, and he asked Coach Swinney if that could happen and he made it happen for his player. That was a player asking for that."

Former running back Roderick McDowellRoderick McDowell
Running Back (2009 - 2013)
#25 5-9, 195
Sumter, SC

View Full Profile
isn’t ashamed of his faith, and even credits that faith with helping him get through Clemson. However, he says that Swinney lets each player make his own decisions.

“It's not a church service that he was leading,” McDowell said. “One thing that I can say is that Coach Swinney gives everyone the opportunity to do whatever they want and have the opinion that they want. To be a coach, you have to do that. You can't force anyone to do anything. When kids get baptized or when we say the prayer, Coach Swinney didn't make us be there. When Nuk got baptized, Coach Swinney told us if you want to be here, you can be here. Coach Swinney doesn't force anything on anybody. At the end of the day, you can't force Christ on anybody.”

Aaron Kelly, who played wide receiver at Clemson from 2005-2008, grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness and he told TigerNet that he was never pressured to do anything against his beliefs.

“I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and I was kind of a little different from the people there at Clemson because of that,” Kelly said. “It never caused me problems. There were some things that I didn’t really feel comfortable doing, like when we all got together and had a church visit. But as far as my religious beliefs or anything like that, it was never a challenge. I did what I wanted to do, and I was never pressured into doing anything. It was never a problem and it was never forced on me or anything like that. If I was uncomfortable with anything, I just explained myself and they were okay with it.”

The foundation has recommended the elimination of Clemson's chaplaincy position, currently held by former Clemson player James Trapp. The foundation states that Trapp has overstepped his bounds in organizing religious activities for the team.

That doesn’t sit well with former center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
Center (2008 - 2012)
#55 6-5, 265
Pelion, SC

View Full Profile
.

“I am extremely disappointed with these outrageously ignorant accusations,” Freeman said. “Clemson University, our athletic program, nor James Trapp himself has ever forced religion on anyone. It saddens me to know that somebody has taken these drastic measures to try to ruin a great thing. I am a proud supporter of all things Dabo Swinney, James Trapp, and Clemson University - where people care more about you developing as a man than as a number on the field.”

During the conversation with Kelly, we joked about how combining politics, religion and the religion of college football make for a dangerous cocktail of emotions from both sides of the fence.

Linus sits alone in the pumpkin patch for a reason, keeping his beliefs and his emotions to himself except for the occasional visit from Charlie Brown. This issue, however, won’t be ignored and likely won’t go away anytime soon.


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Subject (Replies: 119) Author
spacer New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
TigerNet News
spacer David, for the record, did you interview any former athletes
clemsongt
spacer Re: David, for the record, did you interview any former athletes
davidhood®
spacer Re: David, for the record, did you interview any former athletes
jbthe1tiger99
spacer Yusef Kelly might be a good start.***
deleted
spacer If FFRF had any former or current athletes on board
NortherTiger
spacer I think the public has spoken very loudly on this so far....
ragtop
spacer I BELIEVE......they have taken on more than they realized
ragtop
spacer So you're saying...
ClemsonTiger1988®
spacer Another great article davidhoodsteele!
cutigerbob®
spacer Re: Another great article davidhoodsteele!
davidhood®
spacer Shocking, isn't it?***
cutigerbob®
spacer it's shocking we can't get to 110% around here.***
tiger_swimmer®
spacer So, he better leave his filthy hands off that rock!***
CUTiger1989®
spacer and another witty response***
ragtop
spacer good one!!! I can't believe I'm the first to TU you on that***
ragtop
spacer Hey, you can't be in that club alone
CUgrad2011
spacer Cereally, davidhoodsteele, THAT is where you should be
Rocky the Tiger®
spacer Personally, I think this helps recruiting ... it simply
apextiger®
spacer ^^^^^This^^^^^
TigerHawk76®
spacer Well that explains why Aaron Kelly kept knocking on my apt
TooterTownTiger
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
Mmed76
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
lhaselden
spacer We don't have to tell them to go to He!!
CUTiger1989®
spacer There You Have It!!!....Nothing Forced ----
Xander5000
spacer Re: There You Have It!!!....Nothing Forced ----
jbthe1tiger99
spacer Hey, the way the world is going to H*LL in a handbasket imo
lightbulbbill®
spacer Stay the Course!
Miss80s
spacer #### those liberal ########. They obviously don't know what
tigerdrummer®
spacer I was hoping to hear some feedback from Clemson players.
clemsongrad84
spacer Everybody knows there is a constitutional "separation of
vernertater
spacer there is no constitutional separation of anything***
Neal in NC®
spacer Except for the whole
spooneye®
spacer Not exactly true***
BooGotshot
spacer Re: Not exactly true***
footballmanager
spacer I despise how a group like that believes it is their
Save the Tiger
spacer Yeah, I was wondering if they have gone out
CUTiger1989®
spacer Obviously ran by Athiest
Tigermanlove22
spacer Re: Obviously ran by Athiest
bobcobb22
spacer 19,000 strong. They'd fill up the West End Zone
scooter
spacer Re: Obviously ran by Athiest
Powdersville®
spacer Re: Obviously ran by Athiest
bobcobb22
spacer Really? They've targeted Dabo. Was there a complaint filed?
cutigerbob®
spacer Re: Really? They've targeted Dabo. Was there a complaint filed?
bobcobb22
spacer My favorite quote from the article...
jbusher15
spacer Re: Really? They've targeted Dabo. Was there a complaint filed?
footballmanager
spacer Gay marriage isn't a small little issue
SquishyWaffle
spacer Re: Gay marriage isn't a small little issue
BIG ORANGE
spacer Why is everyone so upset? I know it is a tired analogy but
BooGotshot
spacer Tiger manlove doesn't like gays?
hotsawce
spacer The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
Orange and Purple
spacer Re: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
Litefoot®
spacer Re: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
IvegottheCooties
spacer the fact no one if forced to into the activities is what the
CU_Kobe_24®
spacer Re: the fact no one if forced to into the activities is what the
IvegottheCooties
spacer Re: the fact no one if forced to into the activities is what the
Save the Tiger
spacer Re: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
lhaselden
spacer Re: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
IvegottheCooties
spacer Do the cooties ave a chaplain?***
ebush75
spacer Of course not ... they bow to Spurrier, their idol.***
CUTiger1989®
spacer Re: Do the cooties ave a chaplain?***
IvegottheCooties
spacer Maybe b/c having a chaplain is one of their complaints?
Noodle
spacer Yep. And he's a (gasp!) Christian.***
Noodle
spacer Re: Do the cooties ave a chaplain?***
mrstigrjm76
spacer He absolutely CAN promote one religion over another,
cutigerbob®
spacer Re: He absolutely CAN promote one religion over another,
tigerinaiken®
spacer Re: The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a hate group.
lhaselden
spacer They lynch people with lawyers rather than lengths of rope.***
Orange and Purple
spacer Do not confuse lack of opportunity with lack of intent.
Orange and Purple
spacer Re: Do not confuse lack of opportunity with lack of intent.
tigerinaiken®
spacer Sir, I have never hated anyone.
Orange and Purple
spacer Re: Do not confuse lack of opportunity with lack of intent.
ORTiger
spacer It's scary that several people agree with this crazy talk.***
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Winner for the dumbest comment of the day!***
BooGotshot
spacer Oops, just got replaced by this one!***
Orange and Purple
spacer You know... when you say "this one," it makes it look....
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Spent a few minutes on FFRF's FB page
sgatiger
spacer You know they did invent the toothbrush in Columbia
Neal in NC®
spacer Coersion from the evangelical atheists.***
Razzmatazz
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
Tiger2thdoc
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
randyodps
spacer POTD!
CU2013®
spacer And there in lies the problem with this country nowadays
GunTotnTigr
spacer Re: And there in lies the problem..SPOT ON GunTotn!
jbthe1tiger99
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
Splode
spacer Jimmy Swaggert for Offensive Coach!!! haha***
tigerfanjack
spacer Re: Jimmy Swaggert for Offensive Coach!!! haha***
lhaselden
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
colatiger89
spacer As a non-Christian, Atheist groups are annoying to me.
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Re: As a non-Christian, Atheist groups are annoying to me.
lhaselden
spacer Re: New Story: Faith and Football: Former Clemson players speak out
ProudTigerMom
spacer I'm not Christian
ziggy_1118
spacer Interview some marginal players
IPTAY FAMILY
spacer Re: Interview some marginal players
lhaselden
spacer Actually, I think just the opposite
mhuyser
spacer Good point on the praying players that didn't play!
IPTAY FAMILY
spacer Ask yourself this...
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: Ask yourself this...
Save the Tiger
spacer You miss the point.
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: You miss the point.
Save the Tiger
spacer Which may deter people of other beliefs/attitudes.***
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Re: Which may deter people of other beliefs/attitudes.***
footballmanager
spacer Re: Which may deter people of other beliefs/attitudes.***
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Re: Ask yourself this...
lhaselden
spacer "Being who he is" is not what is at issue here.
Completely Solid Orange®
spacer Ahhh, the 1st Amendment.
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: Ahhh, the 1st Amendment.
footballmanager
spacer Wow. You were 0-3.
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: Wow. You were 0-3.
carolinachef
spacer Thats actually not the standard
IPTAY FAMILY
spacer Really. Can Dabo wear a crucifix pin on his shirt?***
Kanye Twitty
spacer Sure. Your employer can't take away YOUR 1st ammendment
IPTAY FAMILY
spacer Re: Ahhh, the 1st Amendment.
hunter61
spacer Re: Ask yourself this...
footballmanager
spacer Giggle. And how would FFRF "Wipe out Christianity"??
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: Giggle. And how would FFRF "Wipe out Christianity"??
76er®
spacer I am in the minority so I should GTW away?
Kanye Twitty
spacer Re: Here is your answer
hunter61
spacer Re: Hypocrisy at its finest
hunter61
spacer Note to McDaniel
silvavocati
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