'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. del

    It's not about faith, it's about being seen of the world. Showing off, " look at me, how great I am, I give praise to the Lord". So do I. But not to be seen of the world, but between myself and God. The camera's are rolling, and athletes use prayer or the act of it to draw attention to themselves. Athletes have the biggest ego's in the world. They have been pampered, cuddled and told how great they are all their lives. A lot of us are faithful Christians and pray regularly, but not in a forum to be seen of the world or draw attention to ourselves. But, each to his own, the Lord knows if your sincere or not.But again, Tebow needs all the prayers he can get, he is a project in the quarterback position and a long way from keeping his starting position. Keep on praying Tebow, because you need all the prayers you can get.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  2. James

    A man`s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

    November 11, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  3. Chuck

    It seems to me that the only ones making a big deal out of Tebow's faith are those that have a problem with Christianity to start with. And that is their problem. Tebow wishes for others to know who he is and there is nothing wrong with that. Ball players change their name, cut their hair/dress differently, live lives that many don't approve of, but it is their right to do so just like it is Tebow's right to live his life his way. He is a good ballplayer and I hope he makes it in the NFL. So many don't. It is not easy to be successful in the NFL. Best of luck Tebow. Hope to watch you and your team in a Super Bowl one day.

    November 11, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  4. ANGEL

    This article is crazy and stupid!! I mean players have been doing all types of crazy dances and acrobatic moves for years,, and the one time someone does something meaninful after a win, the media makes it seem like it's out of the ordinary or bizarre! So a whole article has to be written on this new phenomenon called PRAYER!! GIMME A BREAK

    November 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  5. Chad

    Unfortunately Christians are openly mocked and ridiculed in our society.. Tebow is awesome, I hope he finds major success in the NFL

    November 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  6. Heywood Jablome

    So he's praying–good for him. It wasn't him who created the site but someone else. If this site wasn't up his praying wouldn't have gotten any additional attention. Atheists, Agnostics and Christians–we are all people of this earth–why not just respect one another and just accept each others beliefs?? Now that would be a worthy news story. Its cloudy and ugly in Orange County, CA. I am watching "Knocked Up" and enjoying the day. I hope all of you are as well:):)

    November 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  7. Heywood Jablome

    So he's praying–good for him. It wasn't him who created the site but someone else. If this site wasn't up jis praying wouldn't have gotten any additional attention. Athiests, Agnostics and Christians–we are all people of this earth–why not just respect one another and just accept each others beliefs?? Now that would be a worthy news story. Its cloudy and ugly in Orange County, CA. I am watching "Knocked Up" and enjoying the day. I hope all of you are as well:):)

    November 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  8. Argle Bargle

    Some people will do anything for attention.

    Whatever happened to: "But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly."

    November 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  9. glenn

    Matthew 6;5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the HYPOCRITES are: For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, THAT THEY MAY BE SEEN OF MEN. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  10. Eric

    Would it be better if he pranced around and humped the air like others do? Take religion out of this, his "Tebowing" is a subtle and dignified way to celebrate achievement.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  11. glyder

    tebow praying in public is fine with me.i don't know if he will make it in the nfl.i don't know a whole lot about him.but so far he seems to show more class than some of his critics here.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  12. Bobmma

    I don't believe in god, but if I did, who's to say he doesn't have a sense of humor. If god really is all powerful, he would have no reason to be insecure. As long as you are not being overly offensive, I bet the big guy gets a kick out of the occasional pokes.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  13. Eh

    I just don't give a flip. For a long time it was illegal to mock faiths, if you are strong in your faith then deal with it. Doesn't make it okay to make fun of people, but I just don't care about Tebow or people like him who "use the spotlight to spread the word"

    November 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. Michael

    In what way is Tebow kneeling in a moment of silent prayer "flaunting" his religion or beliefs? Tim, please explain how silent prayer is in anyway on par with publically exposing one's genitals.

    November 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  15. James

    I'm not sure why so many seem to think that prayer = supplication. Tebow never claimed he was asking God to help him win the game or to help him perform well, some people just jump to that conclusion. Supplication (asking for God to intervene) is only one aspect of prayer, and is highly unlikely to be what is going on whenever Tebow does his prayer. It's more likely that, like any good Christian, Tebow is merely acknowledging that it is by the grace of God that he has been gifted with his talents and the opportunity to utilize them, not by his own power.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • James

      So, does God care about the game? Probably not, and I don't think Tebow is claiming that he does. But God does care about his people and it is God who gave him the natural talents that allow him to be a good player, the drive to work hard to accomplish his goals, and the opportunity to make it where he has. I think it's great that he acknowledges that.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Amen brother! Thanking God for the opportunity to share your gifts with the world while glorifying your creator is reward enough. Tebow has courage and dignity.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Tebow is singling himself out on the field, taking attention from the team to put it on himself. This sort of action is just as selfish an end zone dance. The Broncos have a winning record because of the efforts of an entire team, yet Tebow is getting all the press because of his ritual. It might be an honest display of faith but whatever his intentions, it is ultimately selfish and self-serving. Let him pray in private and praise god in the press. The field is for playing the game.

      Would you christians be as enthusiastic if this were a muslim player praising Allah for his success?

      December 20, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  16. Gary in Tampa

    PDC (Public Displays of Christianity) are offensive. Keep your religion and beliefs to yourself- don't flaunt it.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • mike

      Does that mean I can be offended at Public Displays of Atheism as well? Am I vindicated in my apparent "right" to order people not to tell me the God I believe in does not exist? Or can we, maybe, just realize that our beliefs disagree, and that my belief in God's presence is as valid a way to live my life as your belief in his absence?

      November 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • glyder

      what the hell are you doing in this country.oh right,your hoping for a tyranny.miss the u.s.s.r.?

      November 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • JR

      How about Public Displays of "Alternative Lifestyles"? No, those aren't offensive, those are just people "living their lives". Newsflash: For whatever reason, this is the manner in which Tebow has chosen to live his life. As conservatives, Christians, etc. are constantly told, "if you don't like it, then don't look".

      November 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  17. FlyGuyInSJ

    Yes, it's offensive, and the people doing it are doing it for that exact reason. Some (many? most?) of them just don't have the courage to come out and say "Yeah, I'm doing this to offend you and mock your religion." They probably wouldn't even have the stones to do it at all if Tebow were, say, a Muslim, a Jew, or a Buddhist. But discrimination against Christians is pretty accepted in the United States.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Kid, if you want to see anti-semitism, or islamophobia, switch to fox, its there all the time. I also thought you christians LIKED being made fun it, the bible said you would so whats your issue? that the bible was right?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  18. ESPN.com

    north korea> tebow

    November 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • The Lord


      November 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  19. Tim

    I feel that making one's "faith" a public display is on par with exposing one's genitals in public. His faith is a personal matter and he should keep it to himself and start trying to be a better athlete! Jesus hates LOSERS!!!! LOL

    November 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • DAISHI

      That must put you at the top of the hate list.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  20. chrissmith

    Perhaps geniune faith in Jesus is meant to seperate soul from spirit. Weird thought but maybe at the end of the game he was celebrating with his best friend Jesus Christ. Tim Tebow believes in the word of God as truth and shows it with his life. Hope everyone reading this considers a relationship with Jesus because He is real and Jesus died to seek and save the lost. Trust Him (not tebow, Trust Jesus!!!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • glyder

      i'm trying.

      November 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
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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.