Civil rights protectionism goes overboard

Ned Cantwell

The American Civil Liberties Union is once again astride her black steed, charging around the countryside saving New Mexico from God.

Specific target this time is God in sports. Let’s make this clear: There is no place for God in sports.

Sports, and we’re talking about big-time college and professional sports, belongs in the kingdom of the worldly, populated by iconic idols who feast at a buffet of sex, drugs, alcohol, $100,000 sports cars and multimillion dollar mansions.

Where does God fit in that picture? He doesn’t.
And yet you got guys like Ritchie McKay, UNM Lobo basketball coach, actually professing his belief in God and even — get this — placing a Bible on the front of his desk.

McKay irritates Peter Simonson, executive director of the state ACLU, who admits the basketball coach has every right to his belief in Christianity, but no right to make belief in Christianity a condition of participation on the team.

That’s funny by its own self.

A major college coach would play a guy with pointy ears who divides his time between Sunday Mass, the Synagogue, and services at the Buddhist Temple as long as he is 6 foot 8 and can sink a jumper from 25 feet.

This McKay guy, says Simonson in an Albuquerque Journal op-ed piece, talked to basketball recruit J. R. Giddens about God and Christianity when he brought him to UNM after Giddens got in big trouble for a bar brawl.

Here is a quote from Giddens that bothers the ACLU exec: “Everybody that was scouting me was only looking at me as a talent while Coach McKay talked to me about changing as a person, too. … He lives by the Lord and we talked a lot about that. This team is really a family, and I wanted to be part of that.”

Is that the most horrible thing you have ever read? The Lord? Family? Looking beyond a guy’s enormous ball-handling ability to the person inside?

What is this basketball program coming to?

Maybe it is coming to prayer before games. No, it has already knelt in that pew and got knobby knees. Up until last November a chaplain was leading the Lobos in prayer, but that practice ended after the ACLU raised a ruckus.

Much of Simonson’s protest revolves around the notion that mandatory church attendance is a part of McKay’s program. Were such the case, it would be wrong.

The fact that McKay’s players have stated they are not required to go to church and many of them do not go to church and their playing time is not based on going to church … what more do we need to know?

Let us not downplay, however, the efforts of our ever-vigilant ACLU. This is not just an issue for our state. Here’s the thing. You let God in sports in New Mexico, and it’s going to spread.

Pretty soon God will be over there in Texas dealing with that Lancaster High star who is facing six counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

This boy doesn’t need the spiritual stuff. He just needs his dazzling speed, green grass, an open field, and the marvelous legs God gave him.


I mean “someone” gave him.

I wouldn’t want to get in trouble with the ACLU.

New Mexico columnist Ned Cantwell doesn’t have a prayer when it comes to sinking a free throw. Contact him at: