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Billy Reed: On Easter Sunday, celebrate the sports celebrities who live their lives as true role models

It seems wrong, if not even irreverent, to write about something as relatively mundane as sports on Easter Sunday, the holiest day on the Christian calendar. Yet treading where wise men fear to go, I can see vestiges of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, his burial, and his rise from the tomb even in today’s crass sports world.

In other words, I want to celebrate the coaches and athletes who are using their fame and money to adhere to the teachings of Jesus.

The list must begin with LeBron James, the world’s greatest basketball player, who has donated millions to help the education of poor children and the disadvantaged in his hometown of Akron, OH.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

LeBron puts his heart into his charitable endeavors as fully as he puts it in games on the floor. He is, arguably, the best role model for all of us, adults as well as children, that we could ever hope to find. Oh, yes. He also supports the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

He is hardly alone. Celebrity stars from all sports have given of their time and talent to take on the social and moral issues of these horribly difficult and complex times. Every time I see that a team, a coach, or a player has done something meaningful, I swear I will root for them as long as I live.

Sadly, however, they are exceptions. It seems to me that a lot of coaches and players stay out of politics because they don’t want to offend members of their fan base or their commercial sponsors.

And, frankly, far too many seem determined to emulate Republican members of the U.S. Senate. As Michael Jordan famously said when asked why he refrains from speaking out on important social issues, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

This kind of thinking is a shame because now is the time for athletes and entertains to give something back to the society that has made them obscenely wealthy.


We all know that a lot of Donald Trump supporters are refusing to get the Coronavirus vaccine because their leader has convinced them it’s some kind of Democratic ploy, which is as big a lie as saying the last election was fixed against the Orange Ogre.

But what if vaccination centers could get celebrity athlete and entertainers to devote a couple of hours at vaccination centers? The selling point would be that everyone who gets their shot would qualify for an autograph and/or photograph with (name your celebrity of choice).

I would bet that many of the naysayers would change their minds about getting vaccinated. Maybe that’s shallow, but that’s what we are in this society that rewards college coaches with salaries up to $9 million a year.

It would be an easy gig for athletes and entertainers who have been vaccinated. They could maintain social distancing and mask up when necessary. But how many would be willing to do something important that wouldn’t cost them a dime?

Jesus taught us to put the least of us first. He wanted us to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and care for the sick and suffering. What’s so hard to understand about that? Yet a lot of us, and not just athletes and entertainers, love to beat our chests about being Christians while ignoring what He wanted us to do. Hypocrisy is what they call it.

I urge readers of these meager renderings to send us examples of athletes, entertainers, and teams who are doing the work of Jesus in their communities. I love these stories and the photos that go with them. I’m reminded of an old saying: “No man stands as tall as when he stoops to help a child.”

I am a Christian Catholic, and I certainly want to wish all of us a happy Easter. But in saying that, I certainly don’t mean to exclude Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or member of any other faith. Each has a Christ-like prophet or leader. I support all men and women of goodwill, no matter their religious beliefs or even if they have none.

I urge more celebrity athletes and entertains to not “Be Like Mike,” but to “Be Like LeBron.” I urge more for movements like “Black Lives Matter” and less for the bigots and racists who have come out from under their rocks to support Trump.

I also hope the jury in the George Floyd case hands in the right verdict. For people like me, it’s a no-brainer. We have tape and sound that show us a police officer choking a man to death. Even his bosses have testified that he was not trained to use those tactics, and, in fact, violated Minneapolis police protocol.

Yet you can’t count on anything these days. And we all know that if that jury acquits the murderous policeman, or even lets him off with a hung jury, it will touch off the worst series of riots and demonstrations we have ever seen in this country. I pray that doesn’t happen – Lord, help us, Jesus – but it will be difficult to defend such a blatant miscarriage of justice.

Every day, I pray for peace, certainly among nations, but also for us in this horribly divided nation. In my formative years, both parties had good men and women who vigorously debated policies, ideas, programs, and what was best for our nation. But they did it in a way that made nobody doubt that their first allegiance was to people, not party.

At Easter services today, I will pray for the hatred and violence to end and be replaced by peace, love, and stricter adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ in all fields of endeavor, including the sports world.

It may not count for much because I’m only one poor sinner, but it’s all I have left.

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  1. Barry Bronson says:

    I like how Steph Curry dismissed going to theWhite House after the Warriors won the NBA title. “By not going, hopefully, it will inspire some change for what we tolerate in this country and what we stand for, what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye toward,” he said.
    And while we’re on basketball, wasn’t the NCAA title game one of the greatest ever?!

  2. Bill says:

    I have along enjoyed Mr. Reed’s sports books but respectfully disagree with him on key points in this opinion piece. The leading U. S. opponent of vaccinations, of all kinds, is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., hardly a Trump supporter. Anti-vaccinators come from all political persuasions, Mr. Reed. As for LeBron James and the NBA (and MLB), they are hypocrites. When the general manager of the Houston Rockets condemned the Chinese Communist government’s brutal and bloody crackdown on courageous Hong Kong freedom fighters, James said that the general manager needed to be “educated.” The problem was that James and the NBA could not let something like human rights interfere with their business deals with tyrants who practice genocide against the Uyghur people among others. Michael Jordan and Dolly Parton are correct. Keep politics out of sports and entertainment…people tune in to sports and music to escape the constant bickering of everyday living.

  3. Donald Leffler says:

    You said it more succinctly and honestly than I could! Thanks for your words Billy Reed.

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