NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - When Lipscomb University students filed into Allen Arena on Tuesday morning for The Gathering, a weekly assembly for students to "fellowship with God and each other through prayer, worship, and the study of Scripture," they expected to hear former NFL running-back-turned-evangelist Siran Stacy talk about what it meant to "be purposeful." That is, after all, what the theme of the sermon was supposed to be.
However, the students got something much different. News4 heard from multiple students who were at The Gathering and they each said the same thing: Stacy made multiple disparaging comments about the LGBTQ+ community, at one point linking homosexuality with pedophilia. One student who wished to remain anonymous told News4 that Stacy thanked God he was not gay.
News4 reached out to the university for a statement on Stacy's remarks.
"Mr. Stacy was invited to talk about finding faith and purpose after the tragedy of losing his wife and four children when their car was struck by a drunk driver in November 2007," said Kimberly Chaudoin with the Office of Public Relations and Communications in an email. "During his talk, he took his remarks in another direction that we did not expect."
Wednesday, some students shared audio recordings they'd taken of Stacy's appearance. The recordings show Stacy spent at least seven minutes sharing stories about uncomfortable encounters he's had with various gay people he's known.
"He said, 'Look, I was born this way,'" Stacy said in the recording, quoting a gay man speaking to him years ago. "I said, 'Well, what about God?' Y'know. I grew up in a little church, Methodist church. There's talk that, you know what, if you have that type of lifestyle, you're gonna go to hell."
At another point in the speech, Stacy said, "I'm not gay. Oh, okay. Thank you. Y'know. I was like, something wrong with me or something."
At one point in the recording, Stacy also impersonates a gay man seeing undressed players in the locker room after a football game.
News4 asked if Stacy, who has worked for Lipscomb Academy Athletics as a Spiritual Formation Coach since November 2019, is facing any disciplinary actions. A representative for the university said they cannot discuss personnel matters.
My theme at Lipscomb University's chapel addressed how questions to all of life's challenges, difficulties, and desperate situations can be answered and overcome through the love of Christ Jesus. I presented my personal past life situations in which I struggled with a confused mind, rebellion against God's Word, and devastating sufferings as personal evidence that there is grace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am a living testimony that only God can make all things new. My message was intended to bring light, hope, and determination to never give up. I love all people as I am blessed by Christ’s Love inside me. I am grieved that some think otherwise.
The “painting of the Bison” is a long-revered tradition at Lipscomb University. It provides members of the community a physical place to express ideas, beliefs and political views as well as the recognition of campus events. The expressions painted on the bison reflect the views of those in the community who paint it. Lipscomb University does not endorse messages that are painted on the bison. Providing for the free expression of ideas is often problematic, but it is at the essence of the American experience and works when it is bathed in mutual respect for the dignity and views of others. Per campus policy, no student may remove or paint over any message or theme on the bison that is consistent with established message guidelines unless and until it has been displayed for at least one calendar day.
The Gathering takes place in Allen Arena at 10:55 a.m. every Tuesday, according to the university's website. This month, speakers included Lipscomb University's Dean of Students Al Sturgeon and pastor Curtis Zackery.
Videos of each Gathering are usually uploaded to the university's Youtube page a few hours after the speeches are over. For example, when Sturgeon spoke on January 7, a video of his sermon was posted to YouTube around 12:45 p.m., less than two hours after The Gathering began. When Zackery spoke on January 14, the video was posted just before 1:15 p.m.
At 8 p,m. Tuesday, the university has not uploaded a video of Stacy's speech.
Early Tuesday evening, Lipscomb University's Dean of Students Al Sturgeon sent an email to students. Although he did not directly address Stacy's sermon, Sturgeon reemphasized the "five statements" the university developed this summer that it wants every student to know:
1. I am part of a bigger story.2. I am an important part of this community.3. I am loved.4. I am equipped.5. I am not alone on this journey.
"We have a long way to go to convince every student that these statements are true, but I am committed to pursuing them relentlessly," Sturgeon wrote. "As I have traveled today, I have received some emails and texts from students not sensing that those statements are true. With that in mind, I wanted to stop and write this short note to every student to apologize for anything that communicates otherwise to any student."
To read his full email to students, click here.
Stacy was a running back for the University of Alabama from 1989 to 1991. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992 but was cut from the team due to injuries and an assault charge. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Stacy was arrested twice for assaulting his then-girlfriend. She did not testify against him in either case.
In 1995, Stacy began playing football in Scotland for the Scottish Claymores, a team that played in the World League of American Football.
On Nov. 20, 2007, Stacy was driving a van when he was hit by a pickup truck in Dothan, Alabama. Six people died in the crash, including Stacy's wife, Ellen, and four of his kids.
According to Lipscomb's Office of Spiritual Formation, Stacy became an ordained minister in Florida in 2009.