“It’s time for him to be all-in or all-out.”

That was the ultimatum Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock announced Sunday in the wake of repeated protests and walkouts by Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown.

The issue? Brown wants to keep the helmet he’s been using for 10 years instead of moving to a new helmet, one required by safety standards that weren’t in place when Brown entered the league. There’s a chance he’ll retire from the game rather than make the change.

The whole affair is both sad and enlightening to me, and that’s why I’m writing this week.


 It’s Sad

His reputation is at stake. Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL, but that will be overshadowed by this controversy if he walks away from the game.

The change was for his good. The NFL requirements have been revised in the light of continuing concerns about concussions and ongoing efforts to build a better helmet. Brown should be thanking the rule-makers for trying to maintain his health and welfare. But he’s complaining because he likes the old helmet better.

It’s a distraction. This drama is preoccupying front office personnel who should be concentrating only on their team’s priority, to win games. It is attracting public attention to safety issues instead of exciting fans about every team’s main mission, to win games. It is getting attention from linemen whose names we don’t know, players working hard and wearing the new helmets every week because they’re committed to one task, to win games.

But Brown evidently has forgotten that mission as well as the love of the game that put him on a football field in the first place. That’s what disappoints me most. The mission is to win games, not to cater to individual preferences. And winning games brings unparalleled joy. I’m sorry Brown has put himself in the center of a standoff that threatens to take that joy away from him.  


It’s Enlightening

As I’ve watched this play out, I’ve decided this situation isn’t that different from a hundred others happening all around us. Wherever there is progress, there is change. And wherever there is change, some people resist it. Even in the church, it’s so easy to cling to our old helmets instead of accepting the new one and getting on with our mission. When this happens, in church as in football, four unfortunate results occur.

• Reputation is threatened. When church members fight with church leaders simply because they prefer their 10-year-old ways of doing things, the argument hides the love of Christ from a world that so desperately needs him

• Progress is slowed. These days there are new helmets everywhere!  We shop, drive, receive information, choose entertainment, and get well in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed possible even 10 years ago. We can reach the lost and teach the truth in new ways, too, and this is good! We dare not cling to old helmets while the world keeps moving forward.


The mission is compromised. Helmet fights in the church distract church leaders from their primary goal, to win the lost. They lead non-Christians and new Christians to think more about how we do things than our main mission, to win the lost. These arguments stop faithful church workers while they consider the debate instead of concentrating on their pressing responsibility, to win the lost.

Our greatest joy is forgotten. Remember the relief and release you felt when you gave your life to Jesus? Remember the unparalleled joy welling up within you when someone you love became a Christian? Repeating such experiences again and again and again is our mission, not haggling over new helmets.

Mike Mayock will never know how he’s motivated one preacher in Ohio. But when I think about our church and its task to share the gospel, I couldn’t agree more: “It’s time to be all-in.” All in, that is, on a playing field with the most important mission in the world!

Trevor DeVageComment