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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Race-Related Arson Vexes Pious Packer

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- He believes he healed a torn hamstring through prayer. But now that the Green Bay Packers' football season is over, defensive end-minister Reggie White has to face a different kind of test of his faith.


Last Thursday, White said that "demonic hatred" caused people to burn down his church in Knoxville, Tennessee, earlier in the week.


His first-series sack in the Packers' National Football Conference Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday was proof of his pledge that last Monday's early-morning blaze would not distract him from the game. But on the Thursday before the game, White was outspoken on what he faces in the off-season.


He said the Inner City Community church, where he is an assistant pastor, was targeted by racists and that the arsonists are still phoning the pastor with death threats.


"I don't know if anyone is focused on me, or not," he said. "They're not going to hurt Reggie White. No more of our leaders are going to die off because of people who hate. We aren't going to be the kind of Christians who people walk up to and slap around.


"We are not going to walk around in fear. Nobody is going to make me and my family afraid."


Knoxville investigators say they have found gunpowder, kerosene and Molotov cocktails left behind by arsonists.


But White said his church, which is two years old with a 90 percent black congregation, represents more than merely an arson case. He read several racial epithets loudly from a piece of paper, copied from the building.


"It's time to stop sweeping this stuff under the rug," White said. "If we don't do something about these groups, more people are going to die."


White says he already received a test of his faith Dec. 12, when with two weeks left in the regular season an MRI exam revealed a complete tear of the hamstring behind his left knee.


That evening, Packer strength coach Kent Johnston received a phone call at home from White, who wanted to re-take a stress test he had failed that day in the first of six phases.


Johnston said he expected a similar result. But White passed every phase of the test.


"What I saw out there was unexplainable," said Johnston.


The next day, White donned full pads and worked over an offensive lineman in game-type conditions. The recovery was so amazing, by the time his workout was finished, most of the team had stopped to watch. He played in every game until the Packers' season ended Sunday.


"It is all certainly very unusual," said head coach Mike Holmgren, choosing his words. "It was torn," he said. "The hamstring was torn."


"It was God," White said. "I prayed, and God healed me. God gave me the ability to perform. That's all it is."


Well, not quite all.


Johnston was asked how the healed hamstring looked on a recent exam. He lowered his voice.


"Still torn," he said. "Still completely torn."