Is it Fair to Mock Tim Tebow for his Religion?

Dear Sports Fan,

I saw that a couple of football players were making fun of Tim Tebow for praying. What’s up with that? Do you think it’s fair to mock Tim Tebow for his religion?


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Hey Cody,

It’s a close call, but I do think it’s okay to mock Tim Tebow’s religiosity. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a little background. Tim Tebow is a Quarterback, currently playing for the Denver Broncos in the NFL, who won two National Championships in college with the University of Florida football team. In college he became incredibly famous, mostly for his football playing prowess, but also for his religious beliefs which he was unabashedly public about. In 2009 a reporter asked him if he was a virgin and he said he was. He also showed some humor, saying, “I think you’re stunned right now,” Tebow joked with reporters after revealing his virginity. “You can’t even ask a question. … I was ready for that question, but I don’t think ya’ll were.” In 2010, Tebow publicized his beliefs further by participating in a Super Bowl commercial for Focus On the Family which (between the lines, as it were) promoted an anti-abortion message by celebrating Tebow’s mom’s decision to continue her pregnancy despite being advised by a doctor not to. As Brian Phillips writes in his well-worth reading article on Tebow on Grantland, “A trillion words have been written about this already, but suffice it to say that if you see him as the avatar of muscular Christianity in football, you know that in his bland, smiling, placidly self-confident way, he sees himself that way, too.”

These days, Tebow has somehow become even more polarizing as he has emerged in mid-season as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Two weekends ago he started his first game this season against the Miami Dolphins. The Broncos were down 15-0 at half-time but ended up coming back to win the game in overtime. When they won, cameras caught Tebow kneeling in prayer as his teammates celebrated around him. This act has become a meme over the last week, leading to a website selling shirts… and to any number of photos and videos of people performing their own acts of “Tebowing.”

This past Sunday’s game did not go quite so well for the Broncos or for Tebow. The Broncos lost 45 to 10 to the Detroit Lions and Tebow played badly, throwing one interception and fumbling three times. The Lions were not satisfied just by winning, they also picked a couple choice moments to mock Tebow by adopting his now famous praying pose after sacking him or scoring a touchdown.

To your question — which was also asked in this way in the New York Times’ football blog today:

Is it all in good fun?  Tebow invites scrutiny with the very public nature of his religious beliefs, his evangelistic side. But let’s imagine that a player displayed a Muslim religious ritual or one based on Hinduism? Would it be fair to mock those displays as well? If not, why is it fair game for Tebow?

I say yes, it is fair to mock Tebow for his religious displays because Tebow, through his actions has made them part of the public domain. It’s one thing to claim that dropping to his knees in passionate prayer is not a public act even if it is on a playing field with 20+ cameras, but it’s another to claim that someone who used to list bible verses on his eye-black and who has publicly endorsed religious/cultural lobbies it treating his own religious as a private matter. Frankly, I don’t think the players on the Lions were mocking Tim Tebow for his religion, I think they were mocking a sophomore player, who they think is not very good at his craft, for what they consider a self-aggrandizing and maybe just a little prematurely self-congratulatory celebration.

What do you think?
Ezra Fischer


3 thoughts on “Is it Fair to Mock Tim Tebow for his Religion?”

  1. Good article. I concur. Tebow is the one who brought up his religion. There are plenty of football players who are devout Christians. They are not being made fun of, nor is it piety in general. It is Tebow as an individual. No one made fun of Jon Kitna until he decided to tell the media that God told him the 2007 Lions were going to the playoffs (they didn’t). And no one made fun of Kurt Warner because he’s never brought his religion onto the football field. If you do something distinctive on the football field, like if you celebrate a touchdown by pulling a sharpie out of your sock or proposing to a cheerleader, or if you get on your knees and pray after a win, or if you step out the back of the endzone, your critics will remember that and they will make fun of that.

  2. I do not concur at all. I feel that while yes, Tim Tebow has made religion and religious displays part of his public domain, and therefore open to public opinion, it is not right to mock what the kid believes in and how he expresses it despite the other team’s feelings of his gestures as “self-congratulatory”. What would happen if a boxer made fun of Muhammad Ali after a knock-out claiming, “All the praise to Allah?” How would the media handle that one? Talk about disrespect to the highest accord in the case of the players making fun of Mr.Tebow. I am embarrassed for them and appalled, in all honesty. As as UGA graduate, I have had my fair share of feelings of hatred against Tim Tebow, especially after 4-5 losses in a row to a UF team that Tim Tebow happened to be a part of for a couple years, but there is something called “human respect,” and I feel these men of the Detroit Lions lack this quality. Make fun of his hair, his unexplainable rookie “cockiness,” or even his virginity claim, but making fun of a man for bowing in front of his God in a humbling expression of thanks should never be an issue.

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