Starting on Dec. 2nd, the NFL celebrated its My Cause, My Cleats campaign; a week in which NFL players could showcase organizations and causes important to them by wearing logos and designs on their cleats. Many players partook in this tradition, such as wide receiver Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins, who sported custom cleats of the logo for his foundation, The Albert Wilson Foundation; the Albert Wilson Foundation was created with the goal to help provide support to fostered children. Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander displayed the logo of the ACES Foundation on his cleats, which promotes mentorship and service for underprivileged youth. There was one pair of cleats, though, that was unique in the cause it supported. Those cleats belonged to Michael Pierce, a nose tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, who is looked at by some as a rising star at the position. The cleats bore the logo of the Israeli flag, in conjunction with the logo of Israel Collective, a division of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
CUFI is an association of pro-Israel churches that aims to provide a unified voice in regards to Christianity’s support for Israel, which spans multiple Christian denominations. CUFI is also the largest pro-Israel grassroots organization in the United States, which represents the growing segment of evangelical Christians who are becoming more vocal in their support for the State of Israel, believing that the restoration of Jews to Israel is a necessary requirement for the Second Coming of Jesus. Being an Evangelical organization, CUFI goes to great lengths to maintain strong outreach, a typical attribute of Evangelical Churches and organizations. CUFI targets young people for Evangelism through the Israel Collective, which specializes in taking members on trips to Israel to experience the land and connect with its people.
Michael Pierce became involved with the organization through one of these life-changing trips. At the time, Pierce was an undrafted player for the Ravens, playing well for them that season. In the following season, he had a breakout year amassing 50 tackles and a sack. After that season, Pierce decided to embark on the trip offered by the Israel Collective on account of his Christian faith. Pierce says that the trip has changed his life, as he remarked in a video made by the Israel Collective, he felt a “oneness and connection” to the land, and specifically talked about how much he enjoyed attending various Shabbat dinners and learning about all the rituals and customs associated with them. He concluded the video by saying that everyone should go to Israel and see what it’s really like for themselves, instead of relying on what the media says.
To me, this is an extremely heart-warming story. Most athletes don’t have an opinion on Israel, and if they do, it’s usually critical. For example, former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennet expressed his anti-Israel sentiments when he turned down an invitation to visit Israel, stating that taking the trip would prevent him from being, as he said in a tweet, “‘a voice for the voiceless,” referring to the Palestinian populace. Stories like this remind me how amazing it is that a player like Michael Pierce is openly supporting Israel. Hopefully, more athletes see what Michael Pierce is doing, and take a stand in support of, rather than against Israel.
Avi Koenig is a junior at Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, N.Y. He is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.