Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


‘Abstinence Is Cool,’ NBA Star Tells Teens

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published March 18, 2004

Sixteen-year-old Kaitlin Byrne wears a simple sterling silver band on her left ring finger.

One day that ring, which has a cross cut out of the middle of it, may be replaced by a wedding band, signifying her commitment to her husband. But the ring she wears today represents her commitment to herself, to God and most of all, to her purity.

Kaitlin was one of about 200 teens and their parents who attended “High Fidelity” on Feb. 27. Sponsored by Home and Family, Inc., The Challenge Task for Charity and LIFE TEEN, the event featured former NBA player A.C. Green.

Green is the NBA’s reigning Iron Man, having played 1,192 consecutive games—more than any other player.

In 16 seasons, Green, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, won three NBA championships and went to the NBA finals in three decades.

But it’s not just athletic accomplishments for which Green is known.

Having dedicated his life to chastity when he was a teenager, Green remained a virgin until he married his wife, Veronique, in 2002 at the age of 38. Through 17 years in the NBA, Green remained committed to his decision.

At “High Fidelity,” with the 6-foot, 9-inch Green towering over his wife, the couple spoke of their journeys as individuals and as spouses.

Paul George served as emcee for the night, and music was provided by Kevin Wyglad and Band.

This was the first time the couple spoke together, and Green introduced his wife as his “heart, my wonderful wife, my baby.”

He said as a teenager, he was “the biggest guy in school, but also the most insecure guy.”

“My high school teacher and basketball coach was the first person who said I could actually be something,” he said.

After attending Oregon State University, he came into the NBA as the Lakers’ first round draft pick in 1985.

“I would be riding the bus with the guys, and you know, they’d talk about ‘there’s this rookie and he said he’s going to be abstinent,’” he said. “It almost seems like putting together the NBA and abstinence is an oxymoron.”

“The guys had a bet. They bet that I wasn’t going to last six weeks,” he said.

“You didn’t last six weeks,” his wife said. “You lasted 17 years.”

Green said it only took his teammates “a year to know I was serious.”

“They may not have made the same choices I did, but the decision I made had an effect on my teammates,” he said.

He spoke to the crowd about peer pressure.

“Peer pressure can get you to do a lot of things, but you have to decide who you are and what you are trying to accomplish in your life,” he said. “You will face peer pressure at every single stage in your life—not just as a young person.”

Veronique said her husband withstood taunts and jokes to stand by his decision.

“He was ridiculed and talked about. To this day, people still make jokes about it,” she said. “Despite everything he heard, he still chose to do what’s right. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does expect you to be excellent.”

In the NBA, Green’s teammates and friends sometimes acted in ways and made decisions that went against his beliefs, but he stayed true to them, as he encouraged the teens to do.

“Not everyone believed what I did, not everyone read the Bible like I did or made the decision to walk with Jesus like I did. But that didn’t stop me from being a friend,” he said. “Sometimes being a true friend is stepping away from doing the wrong thing.”

His wife told the teens to find their path and to listen to what God is calling them to be.

“Don’t be a person of mediocrity. You weren’t created to be mediocre,” she said. “Every one of us has a special gift, a special talent. You’d be cutting people off if you didn’t use them.”

Speaking to those teens who are not virgins, the basketball star said they can leave the past behind and start fresh.

“Practicing abstinence is cool,” he told the teens. “If I could practice abstinence in the NBA, what’s your excuse? You have to try. I am not superhuman. I am not super-Christian. If I can do it, so can you.”

Kaitlin Byrne, who has been wearing her chastity ring for a year, said she enjoyed the Greens’ talk.

“I really liked how both of them talked,” she said. “I thought it was amazing he could stay a virgin despite everything that faced him.”

Julien Vancoe, 18, a parishioner at St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs, said he, too, is planning to remain a virgin until he’s married. Like Green, he is an athlete, playing football and basketball.

“Sometimes it’s harder when you’re on a team. People look down on you,” he said. “But I made that decision because I am strong in my faith, and I think it shows more respect to a woman if I am a virgin. It means that when I do get married, she can trust that my heart is fully with her.”

It meant a lot to hear A.C. Green talk about his own journey, Julien said.

“He’s like a solid rock. If he can do it, so can I,” he said. “One day, I want to be the one up there talking.”