It can hardly have escaped most people's attention that both of the coaches in the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy of the winning Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the losing Chicago Bears, were not only black men but overtly and unabashedly Christian.
Some have considered their frequent PDR (public display of religiosity) to be unseemly, as if they really expected God to choose sides. (Sorry, Lovie, must not have prayed hard enuf.)
Football coaches aren't government officials. They don't speak for the government, and nobody should take their words as being endorsed by the government. As private individuals, Dungy and Smith have a 1st Amendment right to say anything they damn well please, and expressions of religion are PARTICULARLY protected. No harm, no foul. Ya still gotta play the game.
I can't get worked up very much about what athletes say motivates them. I've long since reconciled myself to the fact that being a pro athlete (or a coach, for that matter) requires not just physical talent but long hours, high tolerance for pain and suffering, and a respect for authority (so as to fit into a team structure) that borders on fascism. The rules are rigid, and you get scorn rather than praise for ignoring or forgetting them, let alone flouting them.
During the last presidential campaign, John Dean (of Watergate fame) wrote a book which, among other things, reported what psychologists had deduced about the personalities of people on the Religious Right. They called them "authoritarian personalities" and said they came in 2 main varieties:
(1) authoritarian leaders, who wanted to run the whole show and boss people around and who generally didn't play well with other authoritarian leaders; and
(2) authoritarian followers, who wanted to be told what right, what was wrong, what to think, and how to behave. This group outnumbered the authoritarian leaders by thousands to one.
In short, the sort of authoritarian personality that's a natural fit for the Religious Right is also a natural fit for a pro athlete.
Contrast this with its opposite number, the Hollywood Limousine Liberal. These folks get rewarded not for conformity but for originality and creativity. Consequently, their minds are open to all sorts of wild ideas, like colonic irrigation, ESP, alien abduction, and Scientology. But this same openness and empathy leads them to be very sympathetic to liberal social causes, especially any featuring small mammals with big eyes.
So my sports heroes are mainly fascists, and my favorite movie stars are mainly flakes.
Fortunately, I don't make my decisions based on role models.