Sports Figures

Many professional athletes today are proud to share their religious faith in public, while many others do not. Because faith impacts all aspects of a person’s life, it is impossible to say what influence an athlete’s personal beliefs may have on their training and performance. Several high‐profile athletes have publicly declared themselves as Muslims, and many are comfortable sharing their stories with the press. Brothers Hussain (b. 1985) and Hamza Abdullah (b. 1983), both NFL athletes, put their NFL careers on hold to go on hajj in 2013. Both gave extensive interviews about the experience on their return.

The most famous Muslim athlete of all time, Muhammad Ali (b. 1942) joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, and later in 1975 converted to Sunni Islam under the guidance of Warith Deen Muhammad. Other famous boxers, Bernard Hopkins (b. 1965) and Mike Tyson (b. 1966) both explored Islam during and after prison sentences in the 1990’s. Unlike Muhammad Ali, neither Hopkins nor Tyson made public gestures towards their new faith, such as changing their names.

There are countless other athletes who may personally identify as Muslims, but who have chosen not to make public statements about their faith. Thus, the influence of Muslim Americans in the field of sports is difficult to quantify. In discussing the topic with students, it might be useful to contrast this phenomenon with the seemingly large number of professional athletes who proudly confess the Christian faith before, during, and after major sporting events.