An Army football team prayer at the end of a winning game has created so much controversy that the video had to be removed, apologies have been issued, and an investigation is underway.
Who knew a celebratory video could have caused so many problems? That is the question Army coach Jeff Monken must be asking himself.
Last week, the U.S. Military Academy delivered a spectacular beatdown to Temple at the Lincoln Financial Field. The Black Knights claimed a 28-13 victory – making it the Army’s first season-opening win on the road since 2010.
The win was the perfect kick-off to the Army West Point football season – which is why it was not surprising that the players and the coaches huddled back to the locker room to celebrate.
A video that was posted on Facebook showed coach Monken sharing words of encouragement with the team and staff. At the end of his brief speech, he asked an official to lead the Black Knights in prayer.
The clip went viral and received 232,000 views and 2,000 Facebook shares. West Point spokesman Francis J. DeMaro Jr. said they were flooded with calls and emails from people, who said the coach violated the religious freedom of the players.
DeMaro Jr. said 44 from West Point graduates, 40 members of the academy faculty and staff, and six football players, are among those, who called for the matter to be investigated because they felt that their First Amendment rights were stomped on.
West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen is now involved in the situation. The clip has been removed and replaced with a version where the prayer is not seen. Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said:
“Monken crossed the line after the game last Friday night in Philadelphia when he asked a staff assistant to conduct a prayer that ended with Jesus. In this case, Coach Monken chose the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong manner. He can’t tell anybody, put your hand on someone and let’s pray. You can’t do it, particularly when you’re the head coach (of a public school).”
Weinstein added that he was expecting Monken to offer an apology Thursday. Weinstein added:
“We assume that there’s going to be an apology from the coach to the team. We are assuming there’s an admission there was a misstep.”
The backlash has sparked a debate; some people say it is just a prayer and if players do not feel like partaking in it, they should just sit on the bench and wait for it to be over.
Others are saying if Colin Kaepernick will not stand for the National Anthem, why should a player be forced to listen to a prayer? Another person stated that this nation was founded by people of faith and religion is part of the American fabric and should be respected.