Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

ESPN's Ryan Clark: 'Jesus Christ gave His life for us to be free'

There was a time over the last two years when Ryan Clark, an ESPN analyst, former NFL safety and professed Christian, began questioning his faith.

The former LSU standout had no problem sharing about God during his Pro Bowl career. A Super Bowl XLIII champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom he played eight seasons, Clark directed credit upward at different points from the time he entered the NFL as an undrafted New York Giants rookie to the day he retired in 2014 as a member of the Washington Redskins.

Yet amid nationwide political division, particularly over racially motivated protests and police shootings, Clark found himself reeling inside. An ESPN analyst since 2015, he told the UNPACKIN’ it podcast last month that the last two years often included more questions than answers.

“When you have been taught Biblically, when you have been taught through fellowship that we’re all the same, that we’re all beautifully and wonderfully made, that we’re all made in Christ’s image, yet your image is starting to be made to feel like it’s not enough … it starts to eat at you in a way where many of those teachings are tested, because it’s supposed to be love — God is love — yet the world is being manipulated by evil,” Clark said.

Clark wrestled with racial identity while attending a “predominantly white church,” he continued. But it turns out that the questions he may have had in the middle of heated politics or issues of inequality ultimately led him back to the foundation of his faith in the first place.

“What [God] revealed to me … was that the one place Christians can all come together is in knowing that Jesus Christ gave His life for us. Jesus Christ gave His life for us to be free. You always have to go back to that. In times where I’m questioning, in times where I’m sad or I’m disappointed in what the world is now, it all goes back to Jesus Christ being love, to Jesus Christ giving His life for us and what we’re supposed to do with that.”

Since retiring from the NFL, Clark has been outspoken not only for justice but for compassion. A 13-year veteran of the league most known for his starting role on the Steelers (2006-2013), he now appears on various ESPN shows, including “NFL Live.”

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