Catholics have always had a healthy relationship with sporting events and since the 19th century even popes have been supportive and outspoken on the benefit of sporting to people. (For an interesting article on the matter, click here.)
Pope Francis also recently said,
“Sport is a universal language that brings together peoples, and can help persons meet and overcome conflicts…Therefore, I encourage you to live the dimension of sports as the gymnasium of virtue in the full development of individuals and communities.”
With the Olympics currently underway, I thought it would be interesting to see how many “Cath-letes” there were that competed or are competing in American sports, specifically. Athletes, whether Olympians or not, because of their prominence in the world of sports, can have a knockdown effect on those who watch them and hold them in high esteem. As Catholics in the public profile, they have a responsibility to live out their faith and all that it entails. Some are/were not as stellar as others in that practice, but we must always remember, they are sinners too, just like the rest of us.
Retired NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens; NFL champion; outspoken of his Catholicism.
Former head coach of the NY Giants; 2x NFL champion.
Jack Del Rio
Head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
QB of the San Diego Chargers.
Former NFL QB (most notably for the Green Bay Packers); NFL champion; 2x NFL MVP; Wrangler Jean spokesman.
Former NFL player; current football analyst on ESPN; convert.
Linebacker for the Carolina Panthers; 2015 NFC champion.
Greatest coach in NFL history; considered the priesthood; the Super Bowl trophy is named in honor of him and his great contribution to football in America. Led Packers to greatness in the 1960s.
Former NFL coach of the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts; 3x NFL champion.
One of the greatest MLB players from 1936-1951.
MLB Hall of Famer; former player.
2nd baseman for the Cleveland Indians
Former minor-leaguer who became a Norbertine and is now Fr. Matthew Desme.
Former player with the St. Louis Cardinals; featured in Champions of Faith Catholic documentary film.
Stan “The Man” Musial
Former player and great for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Former MLB player; also featured in Champions of Faith documentary.
Former catcher/outfielder; after conversion became outspoken in his defense of Catholicism; even attended a Vatican conference.
Former MLB player; appeared in Champions of Faith.
Retired NBA player for the Lakers; 5x NBA champion; speaks fluent Italian; credits his Catholic faith for saving his marriage and for getting him and his wife through a tough period in their lives.
Former basketball player; has served as Extraordinary Minister.
1992 Olympic gold medalist.
Former player and coach; president of the Miami Heat.
Center for Cleveland Cavaliers.
James J. Braddock
Professional boxer; the movie “Cinderella Man” was based on his life.
Fencing gold medalist at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Figure skater; Olympic bronze medalist; involved with Catholic Charities.
2006 World Figure Skating champ.
Professional golfer; won 2015 Masters Tournament.
Gold medalist with the 2011 World Champion Women’s gymnastics team and 2012 Olympics.
Silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics with the women’s gymnastics team.
Convert to Catholicism; member of the Magnificent Seven gymnastic team.
Ice hockey left winger for the Calgary Flames.
Mark Van Guilder
Player for the Milwaukee Admirals.
Cross-country skier; Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati’s name was on her skis.
Soccer player for Sporting Kansas City.
Former defender for the New England Revolution; retired from soccer to enter the seminary; is now a priest of the Diocese of Peoria serving as an assistant chaplain to the St. John’s Newman Center at the University of Illinois.
Player for the Richmond Kickers; Catholic Athletes for Christ member.
Speed skater; spokeswoman for Catholic Relief Services.
US Olympic swimmer.
James B. Connolly
Track and field jumper; won an Olympic medal; Knight of Columbus; author.
Part of the Lost Boys of Sudan who became a US citizen; athlete in track and field.