Is Champions for Christ, the Sports Ministry That Caters to Jacksonville Jaguars and Other Athletes, a Marketing Tool or Merely Misunderstood? Making Money, Serving God

Article excerpt

The influence of a Christian sports ministry that counts among

its members Jaguars Mark Brunell and Tony Boselli has prompted

questions about the relationship between the charismatic group

and a sports agent.

In addition, Austin, Texas-based Champions of Christ has

attracted the attention of the Texas Secretary of State's

Office, which says the group has failed to follow state

regulations and should not be allowed to do business.

Questions first surfaced after the Chicago Bears' top draft

choice, Curtis Enis, fired his agent and hired Texas sports

agent Greg Feste.

Feste is a friend and associate of Champions President Greg

Ball, and Feste and Ball also are listed on federal tax returns

as members of a related organization, Executives for Christ,

something Feste denies.

Feste also is the agent of Jaguars linebacker Bryan Schwartz,

also a Champions member, and is Brunell's marketing consultant,

although not his agent.

Enis became involved with Champions for Christ shortly after he

was drafted by the Bears. Ball denies he told Enis to switch

agents.

"We don't recommend agents; we're not a business," Ball said

Friday. "Do I know Greg Feste? Most certainly; he's a family

friend. Do I recommend that players use him for an agent?

Certainly not."

National Football League officials declined to comment on

whether an investigation was ongoing into Champions' business

operations. But sports psychologist and theologian Don Beck of

the National Values Center in Denton, Texas, says the league

asked him what he knew about the organization.

The league also has contacted Beck in the past regarding NFL

matters, he said.

"It's an entrepreneurial religious group. It's a new start-up

business, quite frankly," Beck said of Champions. "What raises a

question for me is when a religious organization [Champions]

uses Christianity as a front for making money. It makes me kind

of queasy."

But Ball says such comments are unfounded and misguided. He

says Champions is a non-profit organization built solely to serve

God, not pad the president's wallet.

"I think a lot of it is unfortunate that people would say

things when people haven't done their homework," Ball said of

recent media reports questioning the group. "When you touch

people of high profile, and their life changes and they start

changing, then some people are going to be upset by it. People

can say misleading things that just aren't true."

Scott Casterline, Enis' former agent, says he, too, was told by

officials from an NFL team the league is investigating

Champions' business practices.

"If they are doing things for the right reasons, glory be to

them. If they're not, then I've got a problem with it,"

Casterline said. "I'm a young Christian, but I do know that

Proverbs says if someone is using God's name for false reasons,

then you're supposed to speak out against it if you're a

Christian."

Champions is more than two years behind in filing paperwork

updating the organization's board of directors and other

information, said Sharon Billieu of the Texas Secretary of

State's Office. She said that makes Champions an inactive

non-profit organization in Texas that "shouldn't be doing

business."

Billieu said Champions could face penalties for operating, but

Ball said no one has contacted him requesting such paperwork and

his auditors have no knowledge of any problems.

JAGUAR CONNECTION

According to the Chicago Tribune, former Jaguars Greg Huntington

and Jimmy Herndon -- now with the Bears -- started Chicago's

Champions chapter. …