Leaders in the Christian community have weighed in on the controversy between President Donald Trump and the NFL and NBA and urged Americans to unite in praying for peace and reconciliation.
After several NFL players knelt, raised a fist, simply ignored the National Anthem as a form of protest of racial injustice, President Trump told a rally in Alabama, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b- off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired!'"
In response, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Trump's remarks "divisive," and more teams also issued statements on Sunday condemning Trump's "disappointing" comments.
Earlier, this year's NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, announced they will officially skip the traditional White House visit following Trump's criticism of Steph Curry, who said he didn't want to visit the White House amid growing racial tension. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul were among the NBA stars who came to his defense.
Several Christian leaders have since weighed in on the ongoing feud.
"I pray for & respect the office of PRESIDENT. I would like to state I love the 'SOB's' you speak of Mr.President. @mosesbread72 is my friend," tweeted pastor Judah Smith.
Tweeted Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz: "I still/always will pray for/respect office of President. Glad men like @Jentezen have not abandoned their post/try to bring logic 2 him."
He later added, "I'm excited on a larger scale, that things like this will bring more unity, not hate. That's my prayer! And I'm sticking to it..."
Tweeted John Gray, associate pastor at Lakewood Church, "Disagreement is not dishonor. I still believe Romans 13. Let us pray4the leadership of this nation and not be silent when injustice appears."
"I'm also stunned at the silence of much of the evangelical community. I pray they show same grace2broken ppl that's been shown to President," he added. "The leader of the free world must remain dignified & above the fray. Personal attack on private citizens is not a wise use of the platform."
"There's a whole lot of talk going on about taking a knee during our national anthem," evangelist Franklin Graham wrote in a Sunday Facebook post. "Yesterday even Stevie Wonder said he was taking not one knee, but two 'for America.' I can tell you how getting on our knees could make a real difference-not in protest or in pride, but in PRAYER. Praying for each other, praying for unity, and praying for this great nation and our leaders. 'Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore' (Psalm 105:4)."
In a Facebook video, televangelist James Robison first explained that it's not "just the American flag and the National Anthem that's being abused and dishonored, it's actually freedom itself."
"I think most Americans have forgotten the value of freedom and the high cost of protecting and preserving freedom," he said. "That flag represents a blessed, free nation that has been more blessed than any nation in the history of the world and has blessed more people and more other nations. And it's because of freedom...God understands the importance of freedom and He's the only one that can give us the parameters, the foundation, and the boundaries in which freedom survives and thrives."
"Progressive socialism is not freedom," he continued. "We're not talking about good, social acts of kindness and goodness and help and support. We're talking about a dependence on a source other than God and the freedom that enables us to get ahead and live...we're on the way to losing that freedom."
Robison said that while he likes Curry, it would have "been better" if he had "not made a statement like he did about not going to the White House" but had accepted the invitation and shared his "heart with his general demeanor and his great talent with the President of the United States."
"I think the president would listen," Robison said. "I've spent enough time with him to know that when he believes you really loves others, he will listen, and he needs to listen."
Similarly, it would have been "better" if Trump hadn't responded to Curry by "literally calling off his invitation," Robison said.
"And then all the tension, and some of the statements that were made would have been better not made," he said, referring to the President.
"When God gave the invitation in Isaiah to come let us reason together, that wasn't just to the Prophet Isaiah or one person, it was to a nation," he said. "In our day, it would be to every citizen, and it would be to Congress, the administration, it would be to every agency leader, and we wouldn't be interested in protecting our turf, but doing what's best for the American people."
Robison said that the country will see "miracles" if "our leaders would come and sit down at the table of reason while we the American people pray for them."
"We need to be very careful about how we protest," he said. "We're not coming to the table of reason and we're not praying. Please don't sell short the power...of prayer. I'm telling you, it moves God, God moves people, and prayer moves us because it's a two way street. You not only share your heart with God, you listen so He can share his heart with you."
That, he said, is his prayer for Curry, LeBron James, and "all the athletes that have been so blessed in a free nation that they can make an unbelievable income just entertaining people" while "our soldiers, for minimum wage, are giving their lives, their time away from their family - not only fighting for our freedom, to protect and preserve it, but so often for the freedom of other people who've never even tasted that wonderful experience."
He concluded: "How about we come to the table of reason. How about you pray for our leaders and pray for all these athletes. Pray for everyone that's right now at war with one another, and pray that the peace of God will come upon them."