The impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on football can perhaps best be told through the story of Kurt Beathard, not Colin Kaepernick.
Beathard is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard, the legendary Washington Redskins general manager. Until a few weeks ago, 57-year-old Kurt Beathard was a small college football coach, the offensive coordinator at Illinois State. He patterned his coaching philosophy after his father’s protege, Joe Gibbs, the three-time Super Bowl winner who, like a lot of coaches from that era, wore his Christian faith publicly.
It’s harder to do that now, in the BLM-influenced age, where racial-identity politics is the religion driving sports. You can’t be Joe Gibbs or Father Tom Osborne or Promise Keeper Bill McCartney or Tom Landry — or maybe not even Tony Dungy — in today’s climate.
Earlier this month, Illinois State reassigned Kurt Beathard for posting a sign on his office door.
“All Lives Matter to Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ”
I sensed the situation was more complicated than that simple explanation, so I called Beathard Monday afternoon for a more nuanced account. Initial news reports stated Beathard stepped down from his job.
“I never quit,” Beathard stressed. “I did not quit that job.”
Let’s start at the beginning.
In mid-August, Beathard arrived at his office one morning and discovered a “Black Lives Matter” sign taped to the door. He immediately removed the sign.
In small writing in the bottom corner, the sign listed a website for its sponsor, BlackLivesMatter.org, an organization Beathard justifiably views as Marxist and the cause of nationwide rioting, looting and violence. The founders of BLM have admitted they’ve been trained in Marxist political theory.
In trying to understand his players’ affinity for BLM, Beathard has researched the organization. He’s uncomfortable with BLM’s call to disrupt the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” a tenet of Christianity. Marxist political theory is hostile to all religions.
“‘I thought, ‘No, I can’t have this on my door,’” Beathard said. “So I took it off and put it behind the chair in my office. I was praying about it and I thought, ‘All lives matter here, and there’s no other organization other than Jesus Christ to sponsor that.’”
Later that day, Beathard hung his sign.
Beathard has relied on his religion more than ever during the past year. During the summer, his wife, Karen, lost her battle with cancer. Beathard’s 22-year-old nephew, Clayton, was stabbed and killed Dec. 22 outside of a Nashville bar.
“I truly believe that all lives matter,” Beathard said. “It’s right there in the Bible. God doesn’t discriminate. He doesn’t say, ‘Oh, I kinda like some of these people. But I really, really, really like these other people.’
“I keep hearing about the abortion rates and the gun killings. I think about the stuff that I got angry about when my nephew was tragically murdered. His life mattered. My wife’s life mattered, too. She lived with cancer for five years. She mattered to me. It’s about every life.”
Beathard said the “All Lives Matter” sign hung on his door for nearly two weeks before he was “politely asked” by one of his superiors to remove it.
“They didn’t demand it,” Beathard said. “They just said, ‘As a favor, could you please take that off your door?’ I didn’t take it off right away. I sat there and prayed about it, and I said, ‘God knows where my heart is. That’s all that matters. If it will help to take it off, I’ll take it off.’ ”
Unbeknownst to him, a few days earlier, Beathard said someone had taken a picture of the sign and circulated it among members of the Redbirds team. Some players were offended. Beathard said the offseason had been filled with tension throughout the team. He said the coaching staff had been been on alert throughout the summer that it might have to deal with issues stemming from the national unrest caused by the death of George Fl0yd in Minneapolis.
Beathard had no idea the escalating tension would eventually engulf him. On Sept. 2 it did. That’s when the school informed him he no longer had a position on the Redbirds staff.
“All Lives Matter to Our Lord & Savior” — something Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Tony Dungy or any Christian would say nonchalantly — cost Kurt Beathard his job. BLM activists have cleverly turned a basic Christian belief into an affront to black people.
You can question the sincerity of football’s alliance with religion and patriotism, but you cannot deny the longevity of the alliance. Beathard’s story speaks to BLM’s power to change the culture of football. The game is being disconnected from its traditional allies. Racial politics and anti-American sentiment have replaced Christianity and patriotism.
“I don’t like the way this has to be,” Beathard said. “I don’t like that you can’t have a different opinion than someone else. But I wouldn’t change (what I did). I’m not going to deny Jesus. If you deny Jesus, He’ll deny you. It’s written in the Bible, multiple times. I’m not going to back down on that one …
“I think I have a message to share with players. I really do. I think I can be good for them. I can stand for Jesus in front of a group of players and not be ashamed.”