Summer 2024

Russell Wilson, other athletes draw inspiration from Gospel artist Yolanda Adams

Music has a prominent role in professional sports, particularly among the athletes.

Go to any arena or stadium on any given week in any sport, and you’re bound to hear pump-up songs before, during and after the game. Peek in the locker rooms, and you’re guaranteed to see players attached to headphones before taking the field, the court or the ice, where they’ll warm up with even more music. There’s something natural about the connection between song and sports.

It turns out that one of the most popular artists for today’s music-influenced athletes is known for her worship.

The Grammy Award-winning Yolanda Adams has been called the “queen” and “First Lady” of contemporary Gospel. And according to The Undefeated’s Kelley D. Evans, she’s also a favorite of athletes across the sports spectrum.

When Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, she was inspired by the song “Victory” by Adams.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has talked about having “I’m Gonna Be Ready” by Adams stuck in his head. And when track star and Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee was asked about her favorite musical artists, she name-checked Beyoncé, The O’Jays and Adams.

A Houston-born star who counts the Rockets and Texans among her own favorite teams, Adams told Evans it’s not a coincidence her music has resonated among athletes, indicating that faith has long had a place on the field:

“Some people won’t go to a church or a tabernacle or a synagogue, but they’ll go to a game,” Adams said. “Then they find camaraderie there. You never know what that means to a person. We love our sports. Sometimes our sport is our religion. I know that for a long time, people have tried to separate it because they didn’t understand it. But there’s so many parallels between spirit and sports. As a matter of fact, Paul in so many of his writings talked about winning and persevering and staying in the race. So he understood how important those whole metaphors of sports and spirit work together. So it’s really hard to separate it.”

Adams has won five Grammy Awards during her career. She’s also been honored with four Dove Awards, which are issued by the Gospel Music Association for outstanding achievement in the Christian music industry.

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