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Monday, May 20, 2024

Bears Leaders Join Public Prayer for New Chicago Stadium

  • A local pastor prayed for the new stadium at the Bears’ press conference.
  • The move drew criticism from local media as the team vies for taxpayer dollars. 
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears unveiled their latest plans for a new stadium Wednesday with a sensational video that received plenty of cheers and criticism from fans and government officials. Another part of the ceremony: a pastor praying over the new stadium.

The Rev. Dr. Charlie E. Dates, who leads Salem Baptist Church on Chicago’s Far South Side, prayed onstage during the press conference. Bears chairman George McCaskey bowed his head in prayer. Team president Kevin Warren lifted his hands to the sky. A video of the moment began midsentence, with Dates asking God for “your help today as we make progress.”

Dates offered gratitude for the mayor—who backed the new stadium but has been adamant that it will not receive funding from Chicago taxpayers—the McCaskey family, and Warren.

“We thank you for all of the people who will benefit by the Bears staying in Chicago. I don’t know that you play football, but I am asking you to help us. Help us to win some games, help us to get a Super Bowl here, help us to play in the Super Bowl. And bring back the 1985 roaring, cheering fans we had for your glory and for our good,” Dates said.

Dates also prayed for the people who will work and make memories with their families in the new space, and gave “glory and thanks” to God.

The decision to bring in a pastor wasn’t well received by some in the city. Local sports radio host Laurence Holmes on 670 The Score expressed his discontent on his show, saying Chicago is a city full of people who need prayers, especially in the neighborhood where he grew up and Dates presides.

“You chose to ask for God’s grace today for a stadium. You should be ashamed, Pastor,” Holmes said. “I’m offended as a citizen of Chicago. …You are using the word of God to try and fleece the flock for billionaires.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Cubs beat writer Meghan Montemurro shared her bewilderment on social media, posting, “Deciding to have a pastor say a prayer (???) at the start of a press conference when you’re trying to get people to take it seriously that the Bears need billions to build a new stadium is a wild move.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has long held that the Bears should not rely on public funding for a new stadium, said Wednesday that he is “skeptical” about the project. “I’m not sure this is among the highest priorities for taxpayers,” he said.

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