On May 5, 2021, Mike Freeman, a USA Today’s sports columnist, released an article calling for the owner of the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and AT&T officials to cancel the upcoming Promise Keepers 2021 Men’s Conference. Columnist Freeman’s reasoning for the cancel call points to recent statements made by Promise Keepers’ Chairman and CEO Ken Harrison regarding the LGBTQ community. Freeman demanded that the Christian men’s conference event should not be allowed to use the AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, for “anti-trans hate.”
Freeman referred to a less-than two-minute excerpt of an interview posted by defense attorney Ron Filipkowski on Twitter (with 53.6k followers) that Harrison gave on the highly controversial Steve Bannon’s War Room Podcast in April. The Promise Keeper’s CEO was asked, “What are you guys fighting for, and why should people go to this conference?”
Harrison said, “One of the things they’re doing to make their agenda happen is destroying the identity of the American people, and if they can get Christians, especially Christian men, to sit down, be silent and be passive, then they can be effective. It’s working. Christian men are not standing up for what’s right. I mean, you think about how quickly we went from homosexual marriage to men putting on dresses, being called women, and playing on women’s basketball teams. Where are the Christian men?”
This “cancel culture” demand echoes a similar call to cancel Christian culture when Hemal Jhaveri, another USA Today sports columnist, demanded the NCAA ban Oral Roberts University from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament for its biblical stance against homosexual marriage.
USA Today Columnist Attacks Promise Keepers
Freeman accused Promise Keeper’s Harrison of cloaking bigotry as religious freedom because the evangelical Christian organization stands for a biblical definition of men leading the household and also opposes same-sex marriage. Calling Harrison’s words from the War Room Podcast interview “hate speech,” Freeman said, “By allowing this conference to happen at one of football’s meccas, and by AT&T allowing it, they are helping to mainstream hate speech.” Adding that it’s “tiring,” “angering,” and “frustrating,” Freeman said Harrison exploits fear and is using “football to do it.”
“The fight to protect trans people is one of the great civil rights battles of our time,” Freeman said, and then pointed out that the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys don’t own AT&T Stadium but rather rent it, so they themselves can’t prevent Promise Keepers 2021 from using their facility they call home. But Freeman did call on influential Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones to “make it disappear.”
Freeman also pointed to this comment by Harrison as reason to deny the conference: “Don’t allow men like Harrison to use mainstream symbols like football, and a legendary business, as vessels to circulate hatred,” wrote Freeman.
What the USA Today Columnist Didn’t Mention
Freeman doesn’t mention that in the War Room Podcast interview, Harrison also stated that all people are sinners and all need the grace of Christ’s forgiveness. Harrison explained the Promise Keepers Conference was to “call men back and remind us who we are in Christ…so we can get rid of this complacency we’re in and start living for what God has made us to be, which is Sons of God.”
Promise Keepers’ CEO told ChurchLeaders.com, “We have said in every interview and press release that all are welcome to come to the Promise Keepers event to hear the good news of the sacrifice God made for each and every one of us.”
Harrison said, “The columnist doesn’t seem to realize that he’s guilty of the very thing he accuses others of—he is using actual hate speech to cancel imaginary hate speech.” Harrison said in an email to ChurchLeaders.com: “There’s nothing unusual about this. It happens to Christian men in America every day. In cubicles, boardrooms, broadcast booths, and classrooms all over America, men who express a Biblical position are shamed, ostracized, cautioned by HR, sued, and fired. No wonder men are passive—that’s the intent of the forces of political correctness.”
Franklin Graham Stands Up for Promise Keepers
Franklin Graham responded to Freeman’s article on Twitter calling it “cancel culture.” Graham said, “@PromiseKeepers has encouraged men from a biblical perspective for 30+ years. 80K men are planning to attend their Dallas event in July. This writer says AT&T Stadium & the Cowboys shouldn’t associate w/ the group due to their biblical stance on marriage. This is the cancel culture speaking. The issue is religious freedom. This event is about the freedom to believe, share, study, and celebrate biblical truth in love.”
Others shared a similar response to Graham’s. Harrison told ChurchLeaders.com. “It’s why we’ve sold tens of thousands of tickets to our stadium event at AT&T Stadium on July 16 and 17. And it’s why we believe there will be a revival in this land—starting with men.”
Promise Keepers 2020 was held virtually due to the pandemic and recorded over 1.2 million worldwide viewers. This year’s event will be held in-person at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 16th and 17th, and simulcasted in various locations. To register for the event sign up here.