- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has come out of the closet. As an atheist.

And not only that — the religion he abandoned is Islam.

In an interview with ESPN the Magazine released Thursday, Mr. Foster said he is fairly open about his atheism in his circles and gets some odd reactions.

“I get the devil-worship thing a lot. They’ll ask me, ‘You worship the devil?’” he said. “‘No, bro, I don’t believe there’s a God, why would I believe there’s a devil?’ There’s a lot of ignorance about non-belief.”

Todd Stiefel, the chairman of Openly Secular, says that as far as he knows, Mr. Foster is the first active roster member in the major U.S. pro-sports leagues to be openly atheistic.

Mr. Foster, 28, was raised Muslim, but abandoned that religion in high school.

“This is unprecedented,” Mr. Stiefel told ESPN. “He is the first active professional athlete, let alone star, to ever stand up in support of gaining respect for secular Americans.”

Mr. Foster said he is confident that other players believe similarly, but they stay private about it because of potential flack from sponsors.

“You don’t want to ruin endorsements,” he said. “People might say, ‘I don’t want an atheist representing my team.’”

The running back, who injured his groin during training camp and is likely to miss a substantial chunk of the season, said his stardom immunizes him.

“I’m established in this league, and as I’m digging deeper into myself and my truth, just being me is more important than being sexy to Pepsi or whoever,” he said. “After a while, what’s an extra dollar compared to the freedom of being you? That’s the choice I made.”

When asked by ESPN about the common practice of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Tim Tebow — not to speak of athletes in other sports — crediting God for victories, Mr. Foster said he thinks that “weird.”“If there is a God and he’s watching football, there are so many other things he could be doing,” he said. “There are hungry children and diseases and famine and so much important stuff going on in the world, and he’s really blessed your team? It’s just weird to me.”

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