Long-time NFL Chaplain says the Antonio Brown Saga Suggests a Need for Spiritual and Emotional Guidance from the NFL

I wanted these athletes to understand that physical talent was not enough; that when their talent is gone, so are the accolades.

    BALTIMORE, MD, October 09, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — A long-time chaplain and life coach for the Baltimore Ravens and one of the first, full-time salaried chaplains in the NFL, Rod Hairston, says the on-going saga of star wide receiver Antonio Brown is just the tip of the iceberg in the NFL. Hairston says most fans are unaware that the average career of a NFL player is only three and a half years, and nearly 60% to 80% of the players will leave the NFL and be bankrupt, divorced or both within a few years of ending their careers.

The rise and fall of Antonio Brown has been a subject of intense media attention this season. Fox NFL Sunday’s football analyst and former head coach Jimmy Johnson said of Brown that he has “irrational thinking” and “needs some help.” In a USA Today article, Brown’s former stepfather said Antonio was very abusive towards women, and has five children by three different women. Though a multi-millionaire, Brown allegedly cannot pay several thousand dollars owed to various people.

Hairston says all this spotlights the fact that the culture of pro football needs revisiting.

“The NFL teaches men how to be athletically excellent,” says Hairston, “but during my tenure, I tried to teach the men to look at themselves holistically, as not just physical, but emotional, relational, rational, and spiritual beings. I wanted these athletes to understand that physical talent was not enough; that when their talent is gone, so are the accolades. I wanted to give them purpose beyond football so that they could build quality lives with their families well beyond their NFL careers.”

Hairston says though it is obvious Antonio Brown needs spiritual and emotional guidance right now, he says fans of the game should not judge other NFL players in the light of Brown’s freefall.

“During my time in the locker room, I saw men who had the hearts of tender warriors,” says Hairston. “They were compassionate toward the down and downtrodden. They cared deeply for those who suffered the ravages of poverty, serving weekly to make other peoples’ lives a little better. They used their platforms to lift others. But I also witnessed men who were absorbed in their work to the detriment of their marriages and families. I saw men mask their pain with sex, drugs, and other addictions. I saw men, who enjoyed lots of re-sources, but who were uncertain and sometimes undiscerning about whom they could trust. I saw men lament friends, agents, and women who took advantage of them. I saw men swimming in insecurities that professional football and all its acclaim could not remedy. And I saw men transformed spiritually to become humble servants, great dads, committed husbands, and fierce competitors. The chaplaincy experience gave me insights into men, because we were all learning together, under the extraordinary pressures of life and competition. It was almost like a live lab experience. Every day presented a new challenge that forced me to learn, pray, think, explore, fail and grow. I wanted to do all I could to build up, encourage, and challenge the men to be their best, so I had to be a learner.”

About Rod Hairston:
For fourteen seasons, Rod Hairston served as chaplain and life coach to the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, earning two Super Bowl rings during his tenure. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he now serves as Senior Pastor at Messiah Community Church just outside of Baltimore. He has been married for more than 28 years to Sheri, and they have four adult children. He is author of two books, “Cover Him: Caring for the Hidden Needs, Thoughts and Feelings of the Man You Love” and “Cover Her: How to Create a Safe Place for the Ladies in your Life…Physically, Financially, Emotionally, and Spiritually.” For more information, visit www.RodHairston.com.

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