Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was among the many speakers delivering remarks at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church today as mourners said goodbye to Bishop Eddie L. Long - and he's getting both praise and criticism via social media posts for doing so.
Wearing dark shades and becoming emotional at times, Sanders characterized Long as a caring mentor who helped and encouraged people.
"This was a man’s man," he said. "This man taught me how to face adversity."
Twitter responded quickly:
Sanders seemed to address some of his remarks to people he figured would be critical of his participation in Long's funeral. Long was a widely beloved but sometimes controversial figure. In 2011 four men sued, alleging in court documents that the pastor used "monetary funds from the accounts of New Birth and other corporate and non-profit corporate accounts to entice the young men with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics.” The cases were ultimately settled out of court.
In 2013 several former church members sued, alleging Long had encouraged them to invest in what they described as a "Ponzi scheme." Those suits also were settled.
Sanders' remarks made no direct reference to the legal matters but suggested Long was innocent of any wrongdoing.
"This man is real," he said. "Just perhaps all the media, all the naysayers, all the doubters, perhaps you were wrong about this man."
The crowd warmly applauded and several social media posts saluted Sanders' comments:
Then there was some commentary about his attire:
Sanders concluded his remarks on an uplifting note: "This man will never be replaced but New Birth, get ready for the new birth."