'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. FreedomToPray

    I would rather "offend" someone by praying than by becoming part of a hating crowd. Those who "quote" the Bible so much don't really seem to know it. You can take one thing and smear it out of context quite easily. There are 66 books of the Bible written by many different people spread over a couple 1000 years. They compliment, not contradict each other. If you don't agree, read it, in it's Entirety, by yourself. Not going off of some scripture quote that somebody told you about, not one that you googled, or one that you think you remember. No one can be forced to believe in Jesus as their Savior. One might be forced to say the words but you can't force belief. Praying isn't going to 'hurt' anyone. Do it or don't do it. Big deal.

    November 10, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  2. del

    We get already Tebow and Tebow faithful. Prayer is a one on one conversation with God,held in great respect for our maker, in humility, in reverance, not to draw attention to yourself to all the world. There is a proper place and time for private prayer, not to be seen of the world or to say, hey look at me, how great I am. The lord knows your heart whether your sincere or not. There is no need for the trend of athletes to get on their knees or point to the sky to be seen of men and draw attention to themselves. It's a mockery and not honest, but a forum for selfish indulgence as saying, "Look, how great great I am". It is old already and tiring. We get already, enough is enough..

    November 10, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Woodrow

      Before you lecture about something you clearly have no clue about, public/communal prayer is discussed and recommended in the Bible (read Acts) and there's nothing saying that private prayer has to be done in a closet. If he wishes to pray on the sideline – fine. If he does so before and after the game, it's his business. If it makes you uncomfortable - too bad. Don't pretend he's violating some biblical mandate though. Lying only makes you look small.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  3. BJ Bell

    You've got to admire the guy, he gives his best...

    November 10, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  4. Jeff

    +1 for Tebow. Keep it up! I love the fact that he uses his acclaim and controversy as opportunities to highlight his faith. Some may say he's making a spectacle of his faith – ignore them. We are SUPPOSED to "point to God" in ALL we do. I'll be Tebow-ing in SUPPORT of him from now on 😉

    November 10, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  5. Veritas

    Eddie Murphy announced he would not host next year's Academy Awards because Brett Ratner quit over an anti-gay remark he made over the weekend due to pressures from that antidemocratic organization GLAAD. Yet people can make fun of other people's religious faiths......something is wrong with America. I support Tebow. Does GLAAD worry about how they offend everyone else with their parades?

    November 10, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  6. Dan

    Three things:
    Most of the people tebowing are making fun of Tebow, not religion.
    Tebow has no problem with people making fun of him.
    Tebow is happy that people are identifying him with his Christian faith.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:25 am |
    • Emmanuelle

      one thing
      Most of the people are definately despising of the disease of religion and making fun of the the indoctrinated Tebow

      November 10, 2011 at 6:04 am |
  7. GinnyL

    I'd much rather see a player kneel briefly for a moment for whatever reason rather than watch a 30-second gyration in the endzone every time a TD occurs. THAT is ego and major boredom.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  8. arshad

    As a muslim, i am proud that he is able to openly practise his faith with pride. As a muslim, i dont think Allah cares if he throws a touchdown.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  9. blovee8

    judge not,lest ye be judged

    November 10, 2011 at 4:27 am |
  10. John

    Tim Tebow is not the ONLY sophmore to win the Heisman, he was just the first one to win it. Get your facts straight before you report it.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  11. Super-D

    I don't think it's the fact that he's praying that's the problem. It's the fact that he's praying over a football game. Do you really think that an omniscient omnipotent god really cares who wins this week's NFL game? Or that showing off your prayer to the world is going to get the big wizard in the sky to sway the game in your favor? Try playing well instead.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • Skipper

      Well said Super-D...

      November 10, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • jOE

      He couldn't help being indoctrinated young, but what an EGO . oh, he's american

      November 10, 2011 at 4:12 am |
    • CHris

      When it's your livelihood on the line, I'd sure pray. Why would you not want to thank God for getting you through a tough situation with millions of people watching a criticizing your every action? How about this...the next time a loved one of yours (or even yourself) goes in for surgery or become severely ill I'd bet money that you are going to say a prayer. And even if you insist that you wouldn't, I bet you wouldn't tell your friend that you are NOT going to pray for them to be ok.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:13 am |
    • LogiqueOblige

      I'm tired of people railing on Tebow for doing what he feels is right. Let's get this straight. If he's a good Christian, which I believe him to be, then he does not pray for or against anyone. Good Christians do not ask God to give you anything. He does not function that way. You ask God to give you strength to achieve something.

      It is foolish to ask God to help you win a game. He will never answer. Ask God to help you compete to the best of your ability.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • James

      I'm Atheist real talk bro i predicted my cousins murder Twice times bizarre crap. The first was the house were he was murdered I remember going past the house Three Years Earlier when it was bored up and getting a bad feeling.The second was like vision in my head of someone being murdered but i dismissed it as a day dream. The First One I DISMISSED AS JUST HAVING GOOD FORESIGHT.THE SECOND I THINK HAS MORE DO DO WITH MUTIVERSE THEORY THAN GOD.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • Chris

      Actually, I doubt he's "thanking God for being on his side" as you seem to make out. Knowing his character and the depth of his relationship with God it's probably more likely that he's thanking God for the chance to play a sport he loves, thanking God for blessing him with his athletic ability such that he can play, and basically acknowledging that every breath, roll-out, success (and even failure, yes I'm sure he's praying even after he fails) that he has originates from his loving God. Others may breath, roll-out and succeed, the difference is that they give all the credit to themselves.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • Warrior

      If Tebow really understood his savior he would never pray in public before a game. Mathew 6:6 pray in private. There is a place for public prayer but not at a football game. He has already told everyone he is a christian. Live the life!

      November 10, 2011 at 5:04 am |
    • mom of high schooler

      How do we know what he is praying for? Maybe he is praying no injuries during the game. I know when I attend my son's high school football games I pray not that his team wins but that all players make it off the field safe. We don't know he is praying to win the game. Everything is not about winning or losing.

      November 10, 2011 at 5:38 am |
    • Allison Demers

      He's not asking God to win the game. He's simply giving glory to God in all that he does.

      November 10, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Emmanuelle

      chris, WRONG. no one would want to pray to an imaginary being who is either impotent or has a callous disregard for humanity, who demands fear, whose actions in peoples affairs are negligible, if IT existed. To pray to such a cre ep would disgust many, but of course, not those indoctrinated from childhood.

      November 10, 2011 at 6:10 am |
    • Woodrow

      How do you know what he's praying for? Maybe that he'll be a good example for others...not do something to harm his testimony. Maybe that he'd be able to use the talents given to him to the fullest. Instead you assume he's praying for a win – because that's what you'd do. He's not you, THANK GOD! And I mean that sincerely.

      November 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  12. Reagan80

    For almost two thousand years it has been foretold that in the last days Christians would be mocked and suffer for their faith. Now, across the world that is happening. One would think that would cause people as smart as the mockers claim to be somewhat uneasy.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • Tallulah13

      Nah. Christians have been warning of the "end times" for as long as there has been christians. Christ himself predicted that the world would end within his lifetime. Two thousand years of crying wolf and you wonder why no one takes you seriously?

      November 10, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Jenn

      And for almost two thousand year people have been whining about it. IT'S NOT REAL.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Get Real

      Reagan80 - Christians have been mocked since day one of their outlandish tale... it's no great leap of prophesy for some guy to predict, "we will be mocked".

      November 10, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Joe

      Have you asked any of the little prep ubescent boys who were so do miz ed up the a r se ( a s s ) by christian priests what god was doing while they were being ra ped? i guess you would say these little christians were suffering for their faith and innocence!

      November 10, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Ogre

      Joe, - If Reagan80 is true to form with his/her "Revelation" horror/fantasy story, he/she condemns the Catholic church as the "wh-ore of Babylon" anyway, so attacking them is useless.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:34 am |
  13. Pliny

    But, of course, if he was a muslim there would be no issue, would there?

    November 10, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • arshad

      "They" would just burn down his mosque and not allow him to practise his religion cuz they would brand him as a terrorist.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:37 am |
  14. Linda

    If you don't pray and don't believe in God, that's your right, however, please don't redicule others that have different beliefs. No one is asking you to participate. With all the negative headlines about sports these days, try to be glad that Tebow is having a positive effect on others when they see him thanking God for guiding him.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • CHris

      Sadly, having good morals is a bad thing nowadays.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:15 am |
    • Joe

      well actually, the drongo is asking everyone to participate , duh!

      November 10, 2011 at 4:21 am |
    • GodisaPlacebo

      I'm sorry, but I don't see the spread of Christianity as a "positive" effect. Quite the contrary, it creates bigoted, brain-washed, fools that serve to hold this country back based on their beliefs.

      November 10, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  15. pattiqa

    Tim Tebow is awesome.... I love the fact that he can say a prayer, thanking God for all his blessings, not worrying about how people will react to that, he's true to himself. How many of us, yes, including myself, can publicly thank God when something awesome happens in our lives?

    November 10, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  16. Rico

    Tim: I encourage you to continue to be yourself and ignore the hatred and mockery floating about. True success is not measured by "W"s and "L"s on the field.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  17. Tom

    Religion is a mental illness.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • Reagan80

      Maybe but, people a hell of a lot smarter than you don't think so.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • Joe

      Reagan80, this from a fool that believes that you are going to live forever, apparently the next 12 billion years, how selfish is that!? may i ask where you will be i may want to visit your fairland? you confuse mindless indoctrination with intelligence and that ain't bright

      November 10, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  18. yannaes

    Why would "Atheist" come on a site such as this? I find this fascinating that they would be interested in prayer and God enough to evoke comments. Maybe they are searching for deeper something other then themselves.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • SSampson

      No – sometimes it is for a laugh.... but more often than not it is out of concern .... The growing fundamentalism in this country is just as dangerous as it is in any country, regardless of the religion upon which it is based.....

      Some peoples faith is based on principles of 'goodness'... but more and more it is seemlingly based on hate; based on an ideal that somehow their beliefs have more value and truth than others.....

      How many times have I read so-called 'christians' spout hate towards Islam (and other religions.... but mostly Islam hese days) – I may have been brought up a Christian...But when I saw the majority of those around me act in very 'un-christian' ways... I began to wonder.... once the veil of indoctranation was lifted – you know – that beleif that you must act and not question – I realized that common sense was perhaps more moral than religion itself.... That – and of course – the obvious scientific evidence that the Bible perhaps had some historical interest.... but its proposed theories of creation were ludicrous....

      Of course, there are people around the world – with limited access to education (for numerous reasons) – who base their existence on faith to such extremes that they are willing to kill or die for them....

      I see little difference between the radicals of all religions; little difference even between the moderates of each....

      Too much hate and destructon for my liking – I saw them attack, and I saw those beside me kill with the same vigor and 'righteous' anger.....Both sides spouting religious reasons....

      So -I read this stuff because I need to understand the real enemy of civilization – radicalized religion within all faiths.....

      November 10, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • Yeahaboutthat

      SSampson, please direct me to a single sentence in your rambling post where you DON'T demonstrate that "[your] beliefs have more value and truth than others....." It's a little hypocritical to label all religious people as judgmental and filled with hate and then say that you read these blogs for a good "laugh" or to read about the "enemy." I'm not particularly religious myself, but whether you find humor in people's beliefs or you are "concerned" about organized religion, essentially ALL you are doing is believing your ideas have more value than others. Get off your high horse. The point is that I'd much rather see an NFL player praying on the sideline than bringing a gun to a nightclub.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  19. Doris

    Sound like you have a filthy mind and a hate filled heart. Non judgmental?? Try it yourself.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • Joe

      which christian commentator are you replying too Doris?

      November 10, 2011 at 4:25 am |
  20. Brianna

    don't any of you realize that what you think DOES NOT matter in the least? If he wants to pray.. let him. Who are we to judge.. "Christian" or not?

    November 10, 2011 at 3:00 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.