|Headquarters||Kansas City, Missouri|
President and CEO
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is an international non-profit Christian sports ministry founded in 1954 and based in Kansas City, Missouri. It has staff offices located throughout the United States and abroad.
FCA was founded in 1954 by Eastern Oklahoma A&M basketball coach Don McClanen, who later resigned to become its full-time director. After watching sports stars use fame to endorse and sell general merchandise, McClanen wrote to 19 prominent sports figures asking for their help in establishing an organization that would use the same principle to share the Christian faith. Among the first supporters were Baseball Hall of Famer Branch Rickey, who was most known for breaking the MLB color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, and professional athletes including Otto Graham, Carl Erskine and Donn Moomaw. FCA held its first advisory board meeting in September 1954 and was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in November.
After two years in Oklahoma, McClanen moved FCA's headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. That year (1956), FCA also conducted its first national camp‚ then referred to as a national conference‚ which drew 256 athletes and coaches to Estes Park, Colorado. The ministry continued its expansion by adding additional camp locations, establishing a national magazine and beginning school campus groups called ‚"Huddles‚" within 10 years of the first camp. In 1979 FCA completed and dedicated a new headquarters facility overlooking Kansas City‚ Truman Sports Complex, and the building was officially renamed the FCA National Support Center in 2011.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes operates according to an internally written statement of faith. This statement consists of nine points based on Bible teachings and Christian principles. Each point has a corresponding scripture. All staff and ministry leaders agree with and operate according to the FCA statement of faith.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes lists four core values for its ministry: Integrity, Serving, Teamwork and Excellence. Each core value has a corresponding scripture.
In September 2015, Roanoke City and Roanoke County, Virginia public schools ended FCA ministry to football players following at least two complaints. In an FCA activity referred to as the "Watermelon Ministry", the organization had visited public high school student athletes at team practices to offer watermelon slices and tell players that all the talents they have come from God. Two FCA videos from August 2015 of the now-halted program show public school coaches standing behind their team while an FCA evangelist sternly warns them that to be good players they must have a Christian faith and read the Bible. In a third video, numerous Virginia public high school coaches speak about how the FCA helps them recruit students to Christianity. One coach, for example, states: "We teach them not only about sports and how to live your life, but how to live your life as a Christian. I think that’s really important, for us to just have a chance to relate with all different kinds of kids, not just the ones who go to church, but maybe the ones who don’t go to church. It allows us to draw them in in a relaxed environment and really speak to them about the Gospel, which is the reason we do what we do. We want to bring kids to the gospel and see them follow after Christ."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization, referred to the activities as "predatory," "illegal" and "unconstitutional" in letters sent to superintendents of two of the largest Virginia jurisdictions involved.
School officials responded they were unaware that the coaches were hosting the proselytizing, and immediately stopped it. The Roanoke County superintendent stated “Roanoke County Schools believes in the separation of church and state. We want to maintain and ensure that that practice is being followed.” A city of Roanoke spokesman said “When this information came to our attention, we responded immediately. We met with the appropriate people and made it very clear that separation of church and state is the law of the land. We feel the matter is under control and we will monitor this very closely.”
Through its media office, FCA issued the following response, "Every student athlete has the right and the freedom to participate in activities according to their individual religious convictions. There are no repercussions for students who decline to participate in FCA activities." The FFRF letters, however had noted that repercussions may take the form of pressure from peers and coaches, alienating non-Christian students, and usurping parents' authority.
The FCA sexual purity statement has been criticized because it includes statements against homosexuality, which must be signed by FCA representatives of the ministry including staff, trustees and adult volunteer ministry leaders. Student leaders sign a Student Leader Application when serving in leadership roles within the organization, which requires signing the sexual purity statement.
Since 1954, professional athletes and coaches have taken part in FCA through ministry events, speaking engagements, FCA camps, volunteer opportunities and ministry leadership roles. For approximately six decades, athletes and coaches from both major and minor professional sports and top-tier college programs have engaged with FCA to communicate their Christian faith and participate in community outreach opportunities. Among those who pioneered the organization were former stars Otto Graham, Branch Rickey, Bobby Richards, Carl Erskine and Bill Krisher. They would be followed by other influential sports figures including Bobby Bowden, Jim Ryun, Betsy King, Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Tony Dungy, Shaun Alexander, Tom Osborne and Shanna Zolman, all of whom vocalized their Christian faith through FCA outlets such as banquets, camps and rallies.
Recent stars who have connected with FCA have included Adam Wainwright, Brian Roberts, Tim Tebow, Tamika Catchings, John Harbaugh, Leah O'Brien Amico, Allyson Felix Colt McCoy, Andrew McCutchen and a number of public figures outside the world of sports such as comedian Jeff Foxworthy, and Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson.
FCA presents several national awards every year to athletes and coaches who have excelled in specific areas of competition, community service and Christian character.
Named after former Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, this award is presented annually to a Division I FBS football player who conducts himself as a faith model in the community, in the classroom and on the field. Nominees must have 3.0 GPA or better and have the backing of his school‚ athletic director, and head coach.
|2003||Jason Wright||Northwestern||Running back|
|2004||Billy Bajema||Oklahoma State||Tight end|
|2005||D. J. Shockley||Georgia||Quarterback|
|2006||Carl Pendleton||Oklahoma||Defensive tackle|
|2007||Jacob Tamme||Kentucky||Tight end|
|2008||Stephen McGee||Texas A&M||Quarterback|
|2010||Christian Ponder||Florida State|
|2013||Jake Matthews||Texas A&M||Offensive tackle|
|2017||Mason Rudolph||Oklahoma State|
|2018||Hunter Renfrow||Clemson||Wide receiver|
The Grant Teaff Coach of the Year Award is named after former Baylor University football coach Grant Teaff, who also served as the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and member of the FCA National Board of Trustees. The annual award recognizes a football coach who exemplifies Christian principles and maintains an active involvement with FCA. Previous winners include Iowa State's Matt Campbell (2018), Nebraska's Scott Frost (2017), Mike MacIntyre, Mike London, Tommy Bowden, Jerry Kill and Tommy Tuberville.
First presented in 2008, this award was established to honor former North Carolina State University women's basketball coach Kay Yow died after a nearly 22-year battle with cancer. The award recognizes a women's basketball coach who‚ over the course of his or her career, has coached according to Biblical principles‚ and has coached the heart of the athlete, as well as the body and mind. Previous winners include Liberty's Carey Green (2019), University of Colorado Springs' Lynn Plett (2018), Abilene Christian's Julie Goodenough (2017), Sue Semrau, Deb Patterson, Sue Ramsey and Kay Yow.