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Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Religion as “Character”: Football and Soccer in the United States and Germany

This study compares sports media coverage of American football (“football”) in the United States and association football (“soccer”) in Germany, with a specific focus on the portrayal of Christian athletes. Specifically, we contend that media coverage of Christian football players in the United States presupposes that religiosity necessarily equates with good character. Thus, American athletes are encouraged to make public declarations of faith and are accordingly viewed as better leaders on the field and better citizens off it. Meanwhile, media coverage of soccer players in Germany presupposes that religiosity is incidental to good character. Thus, German athletes are encouraged to keep their faith to themselves; for those who do make public declarations of faith, media coverage is skeptical, tending to view athletic success to be in spite of, rather than because of, Christian identification. This cross-cultural examination, then, has implications for public expressions of faith in sport, as well as media coverage of sport and religion.