At La Bête Quotidienne, writer Kelly Weill wrote a story that seems tailor-made to get its readers to do a series of double takes – especially if they followed the Green Bay Packers in the 2000s. There’s a lot: fringe religious groups, a Christmas spectacle gone wrong and references to the movement of “sovereign citizens” all make appearances. And in the center is former Packers player Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame team in 2013.
It began in mid-December, when two men in their twenties, Jordan Salmi and Ryan Desmith, were charged with “trespassing, disorderly conduct and carrying concealed weapons” after reporting to a police officer. Christmas contest hosted by Providence Academy in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Salmi and Desmith said the leader of the religious group they both belong to, Gbaja-Biamila, asked them to record the event.
Their subsequent defense involved invoking ideas associated with the “sovereign citizens” movement – an idea that Gbaja-Biamila also cited in interviews cited in Weill’s article.
As Weill describes, Gbaja-Biamila’s time as a religious leader was not without controversy – to say the least.
Gbaja-Biamila is the chief of Straitway Praiseland, a Wisconsin offshoot of Tennessee’s Straitway Truth Ministry. The church is called “Hebrews Israelite” and claims to preach a literal reading of the Bible.
The school that held the competition? The children of Gbaja-Biamila are enrolled there; his ex-wife is Catholic. But Gbaja-Biamila’s religious beliefs hold that women should be submissive to men – her Instagram presence features a few posts espousing this belief. And so, his objections to the participation of his children, which led to the events which prompted two gunmen to attempt to record a Christmas performance.
Gbaja-Biamila’s time as a religious leader isn’t the former player’s only foray out of football; he also spoke to an event in support of then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz in 2016. This current case is a disturbing glimpse of where marginal religious beliefs and questionable political theories converge; it is one with many threads, none of them are easy to disentangle.
Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.
thanks for reading Inside hook. Sign up for our daily newsletter and stay up to date.