Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce took to You Tube today to explain why he is using the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats,” campaign to promote an organization dedicated to improving relations between American Christians and Israelis. As part of the campaign, Pierce will rock blue cleats emblazoned with the Israeli flag and the logo of Israel Collective (IC). IC is an initiative of Christians United for Israel, one of the most of important pro-Israeli Christian groups in America.
For Pierce the choice is a personal one. He recently traveled to Israel with the IC on one of their trips in which they expose American Christians to the history and customs of Israel. Of the trip, Pierce said, ““Israel Collective has been a life-changing thing for me. … The message for me is just the oneness and connectedness I feel with that land. … To go over there and see the difference and to see just exactly how the culture is, I went to Shabbat dinner, I just enjoyed their company and learned so many different customs.”
His choice is timely. Various recent reports show that anti-Semitism is on the rise not only in the United States, but also around the world. As the Jewish homeland and center of international Judaism, Israel is too often used by those on both the left and the right to attack Judaism in general. This show of solidarity with our strongest ally in the Middle East and an eager participant in our war on terror comes at the right time to remind Americans of our close ties with Israel.
Christians United for Israel, which runs the IC, is the largest proIsrael Christian group in the country, with more than 4.5 million members. Its programming and advocacy work to create a tighter relationship between America’s Christians and Jews in Israel and abroad.
With the recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a rash of anti-Semitic hate crimes, Pierce’s gesture is a welcome reminder to NFL fans that Israel is our friend and that Jews and Christians have much more in common than they do in difference.
While some conservatives have criticized athletes of late for open displays of politics, Pierce has done this the right way. Not only is his tribute to Israel part of an NFL-sanctioned program, the gesture is not even particularly political. Both U.S. parties have historically promoted strong ties with Israel and most Americans place great value not only on that relationship, but also with the goal of minimizing animosity towards Jews in general.
In fact, Pierce’s decision to focus on Christian-Jewish relations has much more in common with religious displays such as Tim Tebow’s infamous kneeling than with Colin Kaepernick’s infamous kneeling. His choice here really should be widely celebrated as an attempt to create greater harmony and understanding in our country.
The Israel blue cleats with the flag featuring the Star of David might even become popular, if they ever hit the market in regular sneaker form, and just at the moment American Jewry can use as much support as it can get. So good on Michael Pierce and the NFL for supporting this worthy cause. Below you can watch the video Pierce released to announce his support.