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NFL Legend Deion Sanders Targeted by Atheists: 'A Football Coach…Not a Pastor'

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Atheist activists have set their sights on NFL legend-turned-coach Deion Sanders, targeting Sanders’ purported intermingling of “football games and events with Christianity.”

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a secular activist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, put out a statement this week claiming they have been “successfully coaching Deion Sanders on the constitutional separation between state and religion.”

The FFRF accused Sanders of “inappropriate and unconstitutional actions.” The organization waged these claims in a Jan. 24 letter to the University of Colorado, where Sanders now coaches, after purported complaints from Colorado residents over the handling of faith and football.

The group said Sanders has been “engaging in religious exercises with players and staff members.”

The letter, addressed to University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, opened by expressing worries over “constitutional concerns” and “potential religious coercion through the football program.”

“It is our understanding that on December 20, 2022, a staff member led other staff members in a Christian prayer to start an official meeting,” the letter reads. “More egregiously, on January 16, 2023, Coach Sanders directed a staff member to lead players and coaches in Christian prayer before a team meeting.”

The FFRF then provided a purported transcription of the invocation:

Lord, we thank You for this day, Father, for this opportunity as a group. Father, we thank You for the movement that God has put us in place to be in charge of. We thank You for each player here, each coach, each family. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The letter proceeded to detail the FFRF’s arguments against Sanders’ alleged actions, and concluded by asking the University of Colorado to “take action” to protect students and let Sanders know “he has been hired as a football coach and not a pastor.”

“We request that Sanders be educated as to his constitutional duties under the Establishment Clause,” the text continued. “He may not promote religion in his capacity as head coach.”

The FFRF requested notification of how these sentiments would be communicated to Sanders. In a Feb. 1 update, the organization said the University of Colorado responded, explaining the college’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance met with Sanders to address issues, including “guidance on the boundaries in which players and coaches may and may not engage in religious expression.”

“Coach Sanders was very receptive to this training and came away from it with a better understanding of the University of Colorado’s policies and the requirements of the Establishment Clause,” the response letter read.

As CBN’s Faithwire has extensively reported, Sanders’ Christian faith is something he frequently discusses. In fact, he recently glorified God during an introductory press conference Dec. 4 commemorating his new head coaching position with the University of Colorado.

Rather than leading with self-accolades, Sanders praised the Lord.

“Wow. Don’t you ever tell me what God ain’t. Don’t you ever tell me His limits,” Sanders said. “Don’t you ever tell me what you’re up against and what you can’t do.”

And he wasn’t done there, as the 55-year-old expressed profound gratitude to the Almighty.

“Out of all the persons in the world, God chose me,” Sanders said. “For that, I thank Him; for that, I love Him; for that, I magnify Him; for that, I glorify Him; for that, I praise Him; for that, I owe Him. Each and every day, I’m trying to please Him.”

Sanders has also been candid about his struggles. Last year, the coach shared during a podcast interview how a health struggle resulted in the amputation of two toes and a deeper reliance on his faith.

His troubles began in 2021, when he was diagnosed with blood clots in his legs after a surgical procedure and needed two toes on his left foot amputated.

Sanders faced weeks in the hospital and eight surgeries. Despite the dire circumstances, the football star thanked Jesus for his recovery, The Christian Post reported.

“It was a blessing, because I could have lost my life very easily. … It was there. It was a thought process of losing my leg from the knee down,” Sanders told Chris Neely of “Thee Pregame Show.” “It was almost there. So when I look up and say ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ it’s because I know the quiet cries at night that were in that hospital.”

Sanders said he is “thankful” to have gone through the ordeal, adding it showed him more about God and his faith.

“I got to really see God’s face and the different personalities of God, I feel,” he said.

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About The Author

Billy Hallowell writes for CBN's He has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in CBN News, Faithwire, Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite, PureFlix, and Fox News, among other outlets. He is the author of several books, including Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.