Cancel culture, which is not going away anytime soon, has also made its way into college basketball. Liberal outcry ensued after the men’s college basketball team for a Christian university, Oral Roberts University, advanced deeper into the annual March Madness tournament.
Oral Roberts, a private evangelical Christian university based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is no newcomer to the tournament. But this was the first time that the university has advanced past the opening round since 1974, when it made it to the quarterfinal round. It has lost in the first round in its appearances since 1974. But this year, Oral Roberts narrowly defeated Ohio State University and Florida, which were both ranked in the top-ten in the country.
Each year, NCAA’s March Madness features over sixty college basketball teams in a tournament to decide a national champion. Teams from small colleges to large, state universities participate in this annual tournament. This year, Oral Roberts advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round, but immediately found liberal opposition in the media and online.
(In March Madness terminology, Sweet Sixteen means that only sixteen teams remain in the tournament, followed by the Elite Eight, Final Four, and then the title game itself.)
A USA Today editorial blasted the university’s Christian tenets, claiming that “The university’s deeply bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ policies can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.” While the piece acknowledged that the school was founded by televangelist Oral Roberts in 1963, it stated that Oral Roberts’ Christian mission was “wholly incompatible” with the NCAA governing body’s equality and inclusion values. In fact, the editorial writer, Hemal Jhaveri, called the school’s standards “archaic.” The editorial also claimed that Christianity promotes “toxic notions of fundamentalism that fetishize chastity, abstinence and absurd hemlines.”
But that’s not all.
The editorial also criticized Oral Roberts’ stance on homosexuality at the university, whose student handbook equated the homosexual lifestyle to “occult practices.” The writer claimed that the university preaches “prejudiced teachings and moral regressiveness,” but the university has the right in America to have its rules and standards “even if those standards are wildly out of line with modern society and the basic values of human decency.” The writer called on the NCAA to ban Oral Roberts (and by extension, other Christian universities) from its athletic competitions. Critics on social media agreed with the writer’s take, but it had no effect on the tournament.
It appeared that the writer lacked understanding about Christianity, which teaches temperance, morality, and modesty in conduct, in addition to the lack of knowledge that the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality.
The school’s president Dr. William Wilson appeared on Fox News to discuss the journalist-driven controversy over the university’s Christian beliefs. Dr. Wilson told Fox News host Will Cain that while the university was “abuzz” with enthusiasm for the team’s success, it will never “be ashamed” about its beliefs and values. “We’ve been this way for a long time,” Wilson said, “We believe in God’s word and we base our culture at ORU on the Bible.”
Though Oral Roberts eventually lost a close game to Arkansas by a score of 72-70, it made its mark in March Madness history and upset liberals in the process. Liberals tried to cancel Oral Roberts, but it ultimately failed.