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Half of Americans polled believe ‘Supernatural Forces’ Affect Sports Outcomes

According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, half of Americans say that “supernatural forces” influence sports. Football fans are the most likely to say they pray to God for team victory, to believe their team has been cursed, and to perform rituals before or during a game to stimulate victory. The active faith of football fans, players and coaches led to complaints when openly gay Michael Sam was drafted; complainants cited their Christian faith as the ground of their objections. Meanwhile, the International Basketball Association has banned players from wearing religious headwear, resulting in protests from observant Muslim and Jewish athletes, and Arkansas State University removed crosses from their football helmets.

Sports also raise ethical concerns, from Ray Rice's assault on his girlfriend to the question of whether athletes with high-tech prosthetic limbs have an advantage, to a the new NCAA two-tiered system that allows some college athletes to earn money while playing on college teams. 

To help news writers and other interested persons explore the intersection and interplay of sports, religion and ethics, NewsLink, an online resource provided by Religion Newswriters Association, which promotes quality religion news reporting, has produced a page devoted to recent articles, sources, experts and vetted organizations addressing the links between religion, ethics and sports.

Also see our feature article, “The Evolution of Sports from Pastime to Religion,” for an examination of how some congregations are meeting the challenge of competing with sports for attendance and loyalty amid a growing trend in which “religious groups...report increasing difficulty convincing families that are willing to spend half a day traveling to a 9-year-old’s softball or soccer game to make time for worship services.”

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