SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- National Football League players are not allowed to officially endorse alcohol brands, but that did not stop Peyton Manning, in a post game interview just seconds after he led the Denver Broncos to a 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers, from paying homage to the "King of Beers."
"I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that," Manning said to a sportscaster about his priorities seconds after the game.
"I'm gonna say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs," Manning said further, after talking about spending time with his family. "I'm just very thankful for this opportunity."
Minutes later at the podium where he raised the Lombari Trophy in celebration, Manning again included a tribute to the American-made beer along with making known his intention to kiss his wife and children and celebrate with teammates.
"[I]'m gonna drink a lot of beer tonight ... those are my priorities at this point," he said.
"Houston we have a problem," one Facebook critic said, following Manning's declarations. "This is the problem with our young people."
Citing Manning's responsibility as a role model and one who serves as an example to others, she indicated the highly paid athlete, who is known to have a "squeaky-clean image" around the NFL "cannot serve two masters" — alcohol and God.
Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index in Georgia, in an editorial "Peyton Manning, A Missed Opportunity," described Manning as "a great football player" who "is probably a good guy."
Noting the free endorsement Manning tossed out for Budweiser when another beer maker he said paid about $15 million for advertising during the big game, Harris wondered aloud about whether or not Manning was paid for his unqualified Budweiser endorsement.
Budweiser officials immediately denied he was paid to mention the brew, although Lisa Weser, the head of marketing communications tweeted: "We were surprised and delighted that he did."
It is estimated the mere mentions were worth $3.2 million in brand advertising.
That promotion likely wasn't a coincidence and based on taste alone – despite what has now been said about the athlete's affinity for Bud Light. According to Beer Business Daily, Manning owns a stake of two Anheuser-Bush distributors in his native Louisiana.
Still is was that prime-time opportunity that Manning seemingly overlooked that caused Harris pause.
"Manning could have said a lot of other things that would have made him a more noble role model for the millions of young people watching the game," Harris wrote. "It is a shame when the heroes of America's youth squander an opportunity to say something positive and wholesome."
Harris also took exception to Manning's reference to "the man upstairs."
"Supposedly this is a reference to God, but does it reflect the respect and reverence we are to have for the One who is the Sovereign of the universe, the One in whom we live and move and have our being – the Creator, the Sustainer, and our Redeemer through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ?" he asked.
While the Georgia Baptist editor is not alone in his musings about missed opportunities, others on social media have suggested that the highly esteemed NFL player has contributed to substance abuse and served as a poor example to those who wouldn't want alcohol listed as a priority for celebrating a major event – especially when there are young people watching.
Still others have said since he has all but announced retirement, it is to be expected that he can now freely endorse alcoholic beverages and that should not weaken his Christian commitment, either.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
A well-circulated article on social media, "Peyton Manning Shares the Shocking Reason Why He Loves Jesus, Drinks Beer, & Won't Pray to Win," published by Faith It, includes an excerpt from the athlete's own 2000 autobiography, "Manning," which gives insight into his consumption of alcohol.
After talking about his number one priority being his faith, with football being a distant fourth after family and friends – with alcohol nowhere on the list – Manning launched into a talk about players who are demonstrative about their faith inasmuch as pointing to Heaven after scoring a touchdown.
And then the 30-something NFL great, who shared about making a commitment to Jesus Christ when he was 13, writes about beer.
"Somebody sees you drinking a beer, which I do, and they think, 'Hmmmm, Peyton says he's this, that, or the other, and there he is drinking alcohol. What's that all about?'
"Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do," Manning wrote. "My faith doesn't make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago."
SUBSTANCE ALLEGATIONS AND MORE
Manning's post-game comments came days after The Washington Post released a story revealing the player launched a secret investigation of his own into a documentary produced by Al Jazeera which is to have named him and other star athletes in a doping scandal.
The documentary, "The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping" included an interview with Charlie Sly, a pharmacist, who in the documentary implied Manning took human growth hormone. Sly has since recanted his accusations, and Manning has denied not only taking the substance, but records show he was not at the facility named in the documentary at the time of the supposed event.
The report by Al Jazeera America has raised questions about the station's credibility amidst financial struggles and viewership.
Manning told ESPN about the allegations, "It never happened. Never. I really can't believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up."
In his book Manning also addressed an issue that has followed him from his days as a revered college athlete at the University of Tennessee. In 1996 a female trainer reported behavior in the locker room towards her on his part to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Knoxville.
After the two went to court and reached a settlement, the trainer left Tennessee.
In Manning's book, he wrote the woman had a "vulgar mouth" and he characterized the incident as "crude maybe, but harmless."
Harris, in his editorial, referenced an opinion by Kyle Butt of Apologetics Press, of those who use phrases such as "the man upstairs" as those who could place God higher than other men, but still view the deity as "some kind of giant, powerful man."
Greek and Roman religions took "the 'Man upstairs'" to a logical conclusion, Butt said, meaning the "pagan deities lied, cheated, stole, consorted, and murdered like 'little' humans."
Manning could have "used his euphemism for God as an expression of intimacy or affection rather than disrespect and only he would know that," Harris wrote. "But as a general rule our attitude toward God will be reflected in our description of Him."