'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it
November 9th, 2011
01:16 PM ET

'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Tim Tebow is used to being a lightning rod. While he was the quarterback at the University of Florida, he drew a lot of attention. And we mean a lot.

He won the Heisman Trophy (the only sophomore to ever win the award), and his team won two NCAA football titles. Plus, he was very public about his Christian faith. He wore Bible verses on his eye black. He invoked God frequently at news conferences.

No one doubted that Tebow was a great college quarterback and a good kid. But all the media attention made some people weary of the name.  He's good, they said, but he's no messiah.

Being a great college quarterback doesn’t always translate into being a good pro quarterback and, let’s be honest, there are more than a few people taking great glee from the second-year player's recent struggles with the Denver Broncos.

And even some of Tebow's better moments on the field are sowing controversy. During an October 23 contest against the winless Miami Dolphins, the Broncos trailed until a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion by Tebow tied the score. Denver won in overtime.

Afterward, Jared Kleinstein, a Denver-born Broncos fan who was watching the game from New York, noticed that Tebow had knelt in prayer, alone on the sidelines, while his teammates celebrated on the field.

Kleinstein decided to take a picture outside the New York bar where he had gathered with friends. Six of them knelt on their knees with their balled-up right fists to their faces, Tebow-style.

Kleinstein started a website, www.tebowing.com, defining Tebow as a verb: “To get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” His photo was the first one posted.

More photos came in from around the world. People Tebowed from the Philippines, the Vatican, Iraq, even in front of the Great Pyramid. They Tebowed at the airport, at the hospital, even at an "Occupy Chicago" protest. As of Tuesday,  Kleinstein had posted more than 600 photos on his site.

Tebow, for his part, approves. “Love it,” he wrote on Twitter.

But did he love it when Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch sacked him in an October 30 game and proceeded to “Tebow?”

“He was celebrating and having fun with his teammates. I don’t take offense to that,” Tebow said during a session with the media last week.

Tebow, who has started three games for the 3-5 Broncos, does not shy away from criticism of his quarterbacking - or of his faith. The son of missionaries, he embraces his spotlight to draw attention to his Christianity. He and his mother appeared in a Focus on the Family anti-abortion ad that appeared during the Super Bowl in February.

That kind of faith-based boldness separates Tebow from other religious sports figures. His more public displays hearten supporters and enrage detractors.

Some commentators, like ESPN.com writer Jemele Hill, think making sport of Tebow's beliefs is offensive. She writes of Tulloch's Tebowing pose:

Prayer is a sacred component of any religion. Making fun of someone else's spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don't have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect.

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, a Christian, says there is some jealousy of Tebow among other NFL players. But he doubts the Lions were making fun of the quarterback, even though another player Tebowed after scoring a touchdown during the same game against Denver, a 45-10 rout.

“I don’t believe people are saying, 'I am going to mock his faith,'" Dungy said on his website, All Pro Dad.

Former NFL quarterback Phil Simms isn’t surprised that other players want a piece of a player who is new to the league and whom the media obsesses over.

“They want to see you [succeed] on the field first,” Simms said in a video on Sports Illustrated’s website.

Tebow acknowledges that some who have sent their pictures into the Tebowing website are making fun of him and some are mocking religion. But he told the Denver Post he prefers not to judge anyone. He told reporter Lindsay H. Jones:

"It's not my job to see people's reasons behind it, but I know (of a kid) with cancer that tweeted me, 'Tebowing while I'm chemoing' — how cool is that? That's worth it right now. If that gives him any encouragement or puts a smile on his face, or gives him encouragement to pray, that's completely awesome."

What do you think? Are people being disrespectful of religion by Tebowing? Was Tebow asking for it?

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Celebrity • Colorado • Prayer • Sports

soundoff (799 Responses)
  1. SixDegrees

    I, for one, admire Teebow. I may not agree with him on everything, but taking a stand is never an easy thing to do, and he's been doing it his whole adult life. Bravo.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  2. Mike

    I have always found that these so-called "Christians" are the lousiest, most immoral, hypocritical people in the world.

    Jesus preached humility. In fact, humility was one of the main ideals he preached. Is it a humble act to capture national TV cameras while you put on an ostentatious charade of prayer? Is that what Jesus said to do? If so, I really can't find it in my concordance.

    I also find myself wondering: is he a virgin? He's not married and he's 24 with top-ten looks. And there are all those beautiful young women sidling up to him in shirtless pics... Methinks he's been fornicating. In fact, I'd be downright shocked if he weren't.

    It's not that I have a problem with Christianity, per se. I have a serious problem with evangelical religion, though. Jesus preached about a relationship between man and God. He preached love, peace, harmony, humility, and non-judgementalism. There is nothing Christ-like in Tebow's behavior, or the behavior of any evangelical, for that matter.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Woodrow

      And yet, He preached.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:55 am |
  3. Panther

    Get a freaking life and stop being glued to your computers like a crack addict.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  4. SixDegrees

    I find such public displays of faith offputting. They are also often disingenuous, although there's no evidence of that here. Still, it attracts attention more because people start wondering when you're going to be caught in the shower with a 10 year old boy than because of your proclaimed religious devotion.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Woodrow

      What? You're worried about being caught like in the shower with a 10 yr old boy?

      November 10, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  5. yannaes

    Sounds like some of the post are from people that are angry, not a this kid, but at something they do not have? I do not think God is forcing him to pray, and it may not be a religious thing to him it may be a heart felt embrace. We are not the judge of hearts, or are we? Is he blowing up buildings, killing anyone over his belief, destroying and demeaning anyone, I think not, at least as far as the press as taken this, the answer is obviously, no!
    If any of us have a problem with this, it is ones own problem, not the athlete.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  6. James

    So Not Fair God is choosing people to be great, and didn't pick me. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A 6 FOOT QUARTERBACK FROM FLORIDA AND WHITE

    November 10, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Stigger

      But you ended up and idiot... What a shame.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • Woodrow

      You're saying you have to be over 6' tall and white to be great? Really? That's sad...

      November 10, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Mark C

      Well he sure didn't pick Tebow either.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • James


      November 10, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  7. mock-up

    yeah, i'm with you guys. screw Tebow, what a idiot... constantly going on about love, peace, contentment, joy... what a load of it... who wants any of that crap...

    November 10, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • James

      Yeah! sounds like a hippie.Get a real job you hippie and stop using the football field To serve up your BACKWARDS AZZ Theology

      November 10, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • occupy atheism

      yeah, screw tebow, lets tell everyone that god doesn't exist so we can try to fill that void in our lives that is just filled with sadness. God doesn't exist because there is so much hate and children hungry in this world and what am I doing to make it better? nothing. Yeah, God doesnt do anything for anyone – thats why the world is a horrible place. He volunteers and donates his time and money to charities – what a phony. Back to blogging alone in my isolated world.....

      November 10, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • tallulah13

      @occupy atheism

      I'm curious. Why do christians like you think it's okay to lie? For instance, I've never met an atheist with an empty life. Christians like to make that claim, but frankly, they are just making up stories - the moral equivalent of lying. Isn't there a commandment about "Bearing False Witness"? Why do you think your god needs you to pretend to be something you're not and then lie about it? Is your god really so feeble as to need this sort of childish defense? Or is your own faith so feeble that you must behave as a child?

      Lastly, please provide proof of your god. You don't like it when people challenge you about that, yet there is not a single shred of evidence that any god does exist. If you have that proof, the world has been waiting a very long time. Please bring it forward and share with everyone.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • James

      Screw Volunteering! I don't even like Helping other people it makes me feel like i'm weak helping someone who can't Even survive on their own.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Woodrow

      @tallulah13 – Funny thing about Atheists is that they require as much faith to believe in nothing as Christians require to believe in something. They've never been de@d (in theory) so it's a belief system, plain and simple.

      I love it when they get really, really vocal about believing in nothing. That's the best... It's so illogical. If nothing happens when you d1e, and the switch just goes off, and there's no point to any of it - why get so bent out of shape about anything. Go party or something. Why waste time trying to convince others that nothing will happen? Seriously, if you're right...WHO CARES!?!

      November 10, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • Woodrow

      @tallulah13 – forgot to mention the proof.

      LOOK AROUND YOU! You'd have everyone believe we're nothing more than lucky mud. There's design everywhere you look but you refuse to see it. Providing more proof would be a waste of time.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • James

      Just Kidding! But It Kinda Sounds like the mind set of a true Republican Doesn't It (more for the rich The Poor Only want more) . I Don't Think That Way anymore But I Also don't Help People Because Of God.Simply because it's the right thing no unknown force Telling me or holding me to It. But I Believe helping them is in my interest as well as the communities.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • tallulah13


      I do not believe in god simply because there is no proof or need of god. I do demand proof, because I am not a naive child to believe whatever pretty lie I'm told. I have no interest in lies. I follow where the facts lead and there are no facts that lead to any of the thousands of gods that humanity has invented. The Earth was not made for humans; humans were made by the Earth. Different chemical composition, a little further from the sun and humanity would be something else entirely if we existed at all. This is where thousands if not millions of independent pieces of evidence leads.

      Your personal ignorance proves nothing. You look at the world and can't see anything but a creator. I look at the world and see millions of years and millions of genetic shifts. You look at the fossil record and see a lie; I look at it and see the logical and pragmatic progression of life.

      Truly Woodrow, I feel sorry for you. How sad that you have the ability to appreciate the true wonder of the natural universe, but you lack the courage to open your eyes.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  8. Robert Burns

    Hmmm, I think if he was THAT religious, he'd probably be in church on Sundays instead of playing games.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Woodrow

      That was brilliant. I'm being sarcastic, of course.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:27 am |
    • MikeRad

      Since when is Sunday the ONLY day to pray?

      November 10, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • RxCello

      I go to church on Saturday. Why do you think that Sunday is the only day a person can go to church?

      November 10, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  9. RxCello

    Ridiculous. Grandstanding about "god" just makes you look like an ass to those of us who prefer brains over faith, although the truly "religulous" eat it up. And did they really say that his better moments are "sewing" controversy? Christ. . .

    November 10, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Cherish

      How is praying, Grandstanding? Just because he doesn't want to do the Duggie after getting a touch down but choose to thank a higher power, is not grandstanding. Its doing what you think is right. The better question is, why are you judging him because he is religious? Plus if you really believed in science you would see that their is scientific facts that prove there is a high force in the world. An energy and a force that goes beyond what can be proved with a hypothesis. Geeze if I only believe in myself I would be perpetually depressed and unhappy with the world. Go Tebow, way to stand up for what you believe in!!

      November 10, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Dennis

      > And did they really say that his better moments are "sewing" controversy?

      Sure! It dates back to an old quote about a seamster (like a teamster, but of the sewing variety) who one day decided to sew together a life-sized doll of a beeee-you-tiful woman. He succeeded so well in this endeavor that, upon looking at the finished product, he was moved to pounce and begin... well... expressing his admiration in the very strongest of terms, without first asking for the doll's consent.
      You've guessed the quote by now, I'm sure.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  10. Tom

    Its really hard to see how Tony Dungy can be considered an 'all pro" dad, yet his son committed suicide. It was probably out of his hands, but... I feel like if you are a perfect parent, that wouldn't happen.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Cry, Beloved Country

      Well, that may well be true, but since none of us is a perfect parent it's kind of a moot point, don't you think?

      November 10, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • To Tom

      You can be a great parent and your kid commits suicide, you can be a bad parent and your kid commits suicide. Either way, you're an idiot

      November 10, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  11. Follix

    He can do i if he want but he just look dumb doing it... I don't believe in fairy tales.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Dessad

      I hate Christians. To the lions with you all.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  12. Dessad

    It's so disturbing to see a professional NFL football player–someone who has trained for years (all his life, most likely) to be the best that he can be–suddenly point up at "god", or kneel down and pray, after a performing a remarkable feat of a human athleticism. It's as if he is saying: I"m nothing; it's all God's work. To which I say, "B.S. God didn't do that–you did.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • Robert Burns

      Um, that would be called God given talent

      November 10, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  13. Dessad

    In this day and age–of science, information, relatively 'free' knowledge, etc.–religious people deserve to be mocked. To willingly embrace ignorance, so that you can 'feel' better about not being able to find a meaning for your life, is truly pathetic and sad. The push it on other, especially defenseless children, is nothing less than abuse.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:37 am |
    • Tebow

      Tebow is pushing religion as much as you are pushing atheism genius. So he believes in a higher power and thanks God for his abilities that he's earned..... Just because you're short, fat and bald doesn't mean you have to hate the world

      November 10, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Woodrow

      You forgot to mention that Dessad lives in his parent's basement.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  14. Fiona

    All I know is that is one fine backside on that man.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • tallulah13

      Nothing wrong with that!

      November 10, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • careajean


      November 10, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  15. Dessad

    It sure would be nice if Religion would simply 'go away', so that informed members of humanity could get on with ensuring the future of the species. As it is now, we'll be lucky to live past the next 200 years, thanks to overpopulation (see: Dugger family, Mother Theresa, etc.), spread of disease and genetic disorders (see stem cell research), and the intolerance of primitive, religious nutcases all over the world (see radical islam, gun-toting christianity, Nazi Germany, Kosovo, etc.). Religious people and their solipsistic view of life will be the downfall of us all. Of course, they'll call that the "rapture".

    November 10, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • ummm...yea

      so was it science or religion that cause pollution or most of the problems we have these days.. science brought the atomic bomb. science does nothing be help destroy our people faster. granted science helps in many ways but to put all the problems of the world on religion which by the way gets people through half of the tragedies caused by science through the day is stupid. for someone who can articulate so well and sounds educated your whole reasoning sounds like a 14 year old wining and crying blaming his problems on his sister, religion.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  16. mike

    i think media is making it bigger than what it is...in the last packers game I saw someone sack rodgers and did his championship belt celebration...but i do believe it is more of what tony dungy stated where players are jealous of the attention he gets at 3-5 and how he hasnt really done much on the field to get that attention. the nfl is full of players that got all the recognition at every level so now when someone out shines them and for no reason they probably take it personal.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  17. Gonzo

    Prayer is a private affair between the one who prays and the Lord. This spectacle isn't prayer at all, it's showboating. It's a passive-aggressive form of intolerance against those who do not share his religious views.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Fred Evil


      November 10, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • Dennis

      I dunno... I see a lot of people not praying around him, and he doesn't seem to mind too terribly. Intolerance is usually a bit more overt than that. It's easy to spot. Just listen for the gratuitous complaints. (le shrug)

      November 10, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Woodrow

      Spoken like someone who is intolerant... and ignorant.

      Christians pray in private. Christians pray in public. Both are demonstrated in the Bible. Most of all, prayer is there for any Christian at any time. No appointment necessary, and if he wants to pray before taking the field or any time he wants he's free to do so.

      The book of Acts discusses prayer in great detail if you're so inclined to actually understand what you're actually talking about instead of making up 'rules' for prayer to suit your own intolerance. Change the channel if you can't handle someone going to one knee on the sideline.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • SixDegrees

      That's sort of my take on it, too. Evangelicals have a very difficult time living in a diverse, tolerant society because part of their creed is to make absolutely everyone think and act exactly like them. It's why the Romans, generally a tolerant society, were forced to single out Christians as the only religion that got burnt alive and fed to the lions.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  18. TAK

    If a grown man believed in Santa Claus, we would mock him. If a grown man believes a far more ridiculous story, for example, that an invisible bearded man in the sky wished the universe into existence in six days, we should respect him? Nope, I'll stick with mocking.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • chicken

      not to mention thinking that if there was a god that he would give a flying _____ about the nfl and who wins.
      unless god frequents vegas, in which case i think tebow should reconsider who he prays to

      November 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Woodrow

      @Chicken – you assume he's praying for a win... You have no idea what he's praying for. Maybe that he can be used to start a conversation about how faith is a part of our lives?? Even you Atheists have faith ... that there is no God, but it's still faith.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • Dennis

      Whoa, wait, hang on... what are you tryin' to say about my boy Santa Claus???

      November 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  19. Jesus

    Religion is the dumbest thing left on earth. If you are a logical and intelligent creature, you will realize god doesn't exist and religion is just a control mechanism based on lies, profit and fear. In 100 years people will look back and say wow look how far we've come...remember when most of us were religious?

    November 10, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • fred

      Reality, is you have lost all respect for God. God lets everyone do their thing then comes the accounting. In case you forgot your history the steps go like this: A country called America once respected God and grew into a superpower. Atheist O'hair took credit for kicking the Bible out of public schools. Kids no longer have a clue. Truth is what you want it to be today God is old. America slips, falls, and turns to mush like England that kicked God out .

      November 10, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • SPQR

      fred - you remind me of a guy in a toga throwing himself down on the steps of the Roman Forum, bewailing the passing of the belief in mighty Jupiter.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • Follix

      Fred truth is Universe is over 200 billions galaxies, Earth is absolutly nothing in it, humans are absolutely nothing versus the Universe so our religious concept are totally irrelevant. There might be 2 millions species of aliens way smarter than us, we are ignorant at that scale.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • Robert Burns

      I guess you aren't educated on how many 100's of years people have already been saying that. Good luck with it.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  20. sonic10158

    If he wants to be openly religious, then who has the right to force him not to be?

    November 10, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Fred Evil

      No one. It is his right to open himself up to mockery and humiliation.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I haven't seen anyone here yet who thinks he doesn't have a right to do this. Only those pointing out that he makes a spectacle of himself when he does, and that this is often an indication of shallowness and insincerity.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:50 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.