Who's society looking up to?

Friday, February 8, 2013
 | 
Russ Jones (OneNewsNow.com)

According to a new study, most Americans perceive sports as having a greater influence than professional clergy or other faith leaders.

Colin Kaepernick (Sports Illustrated)Super Bowl XLVII not only featured some of football's best players, but it also fielded a number of openly Christian men, including Ray Lewis, veteran linebacker for the Ravens, and Colin Kaepernick, the tattooed quarterback of the 49ers (right).

Clint Jenkins, vice president of research for the Barna Group, was not surprised to learn that two-thirds of Americans say pro athletes have more influence on society than faith leaders.

"I don't think it is surprising, and I don't think it's anything new," he comments. "Actually, I was thinking back to the times of when baseball and racing ruled, and Seabiscuit ... in 1936 had more newspaper coverage than Adolf Hitler, who was taking over Germany."

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Jenkins believes average, everyday people live vicariously through talented athletes.

"When you've got a physical activity that somebody is excelling at, then I think there's more admiration for that than an intellectual activity that somebody is excelling at," the researcher poses. "So John Piper, who would be a very influential preacher right now, he does amazing things with words; but that's not as flashy, it's not as noticeable as Tim Tebow, who can do amazing things with a football."

The research explored awareness of seven prominent athletes by asking adults if they are aware of these athletic performers and whether they are aware of the athlete's public discussion of faith. Tebow, who held a spot on the New York Jets' roster this past NFL season, emerged at the top of the pile. Eight-three (83) percent of Americans are aware of Tebow; 73 percent feel favorably about his public discussion of faith.

Other recognized athletes:

  • Kurt Warner, retired pro football player: 59 percent overall awareness; 80 percent are favorable toward his public discussions of faith.
  • Jeremy Lin, pro basketball player: 40 percent awareness; 76 percent favorability.
  • Bubba Watson, professional golfer: 40 percent awareness; 77 percent favorability.
  • Albert Pujols, professional baseball player: 36 percent awareness; 81 percent favorability.
  • Robert Griffin III, professional football player: 34 percent awareness; 78 percent favorability.
  • Clayton Kershaw, professional baseball player: 25 percent awareness; 78 percent favorability.
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