'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. J

    I got news for ya Tebow, the bible says things highly esteemed in the eyes of man is an abomination to God, that includes your touchdowns and superbowl rings... God has NOTHING to do with your TD's...

    November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  2. Dan

    God bless Tebow

    November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  3. Inzax

    Given the high percentage of people in this country who believe in God and attend Church, it's safe to say people aren't making fun of him being a Christian. Far from it. The vast majority of people are offended by his outrageous and constant DISPLAYS of religion at all times. His throwing religion in everyone's faces is offensive and extremely tiresome. People like him and politicians who invoke God in every sentence and force religion on our children in regular school is plain wrong. Keep your religious displays private.

    How many of these Christian fundamentalists supporting Tebow's prayers on the field would be supportive and tolerant of a Muslim football player, praying towards Mecca after scoring a TD?

    November 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  4. Schweiny91

    Seriously to people who hate that he expresses his faith, who cares, he has the right and freedom to do so, 1st amendment, we are all allowed to express our beliefs why cant he? Just because you do not agree does not mean anyone has the right to make him stop. Now I am not overly religious, but people should at least respect other peoples faiths and beliefs.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Schweiny91

      correction* no one has the right to force him to stop.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  5. mlank64

    So, let me get this straight, God is with tebow to score a touchdown, but, completely indifferent to the famine and utter devastation in Somalia. Really? Even if I believed in the sky god theory, why would I want to believe in this one.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Teboned

      God is with tebow when he throws a TD pass, but is the devil to blame for all the interceptions and missed passes? Any personal responsibility here?

      November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • otto

      You don't have it straight, you are an idiot. Tebow is acknowledging God in the course of his actions. You and I are the ones allowing suffering in the world.

      I know you didn't really mean what you posted, you just copied someone else in the hope of looking smart. Sorry it backfired on you.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • otto is a moron

      Crap...I didn't know I was supposed to end world suffering....I thought it was the guy throwing the football.
      I suppose I'm supposed to cure cancer since the Creator couldn't.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  6. Marty

    I so couldn't care about Tim Tebow or "tebowing". If he is free to express his faith, then everyone else is free to express their reaction to it. Being a Christian isn't a protection from ridicule. I wish the people who are offended by it would take a little bit of direction from Mr. Tebow and stop with the victim mentality. I can't stand the so-called Christians who claim to be "persecuted" for their faith when someone does something like this. Do they really think this is the same as being gassed by the Nazi's? How about some perspective people?

    November 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  7. manhandler

    I'm not religious, but believe that religion is a personal thing and should remain that way. Why is it so necessary for him to constantly let everybody know his personal beliefs? This is a football game, with the emphasis on "game." Whatever God he believes in is surely not helping him complete a pass. Have seen alot of this in football...teams knealing down to thank some God for a victory. That's nothing short of rediculous.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Carl

      The same reason you post comments on CNN about being religiously neutral. Isn't the statement you should keep your faith personal a religious belief? If you truly believe that you will stop posting your comments on public boards with CNN.com. I personally find it refreshing, especially in this environment where no one should ever express an opinion or a belief because it may offend.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  8. kilbobwe2

    It took forever for the writer to get to the point. Did he? I gave up.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  9. adrifter

    What's wrong with mocking someone's faith? Religion deserves to mocked, since it is nothing but nonsense. Saying something is above mocking is simply saying it cannot stand up to a little bit of humour and scrutiny. Nothing should be off limits and certainly not religion. It deserves all the mocking it gets.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  10. Buttboy

    Dear Tim Tebow or any other player who prays during a game or points to the sky after a good play: You really think God (if there is a God) does not have better things to do than effect the outcome of a football game !!!

    November 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • J

      Yes, God cares about all aspects of your life. It says in the Bible, even your hairs are numbered. I think if God cares about the hairs on your head, He cares about any activity you are engaging in. If you are praying God is listening.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • You Hypocrites

      " If you are praying God is listening."

      Jesus is very clear, Matthew 6:6, that God only listens to prayers made in private. Jesus said God ignores public prayer.

      Read your Bibles people.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Old dude

      To "You Hypocrites". You said we should read our Bibles. You said Jesus only hears private prayers. When I read the Bible, I find it is filled with people making public prayers - including the apostles and (gasp!) Jesus himself.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  11. joey

    ah yes, just ask the philippino children, is big tim god ? he should have gone to peenn st.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  12. Me, Myself and I - the Trifecta

    I'm back there with spud. how IS this news? It's amazing to me how much the media just loves to stir the turd. Pull it out – ah, not stinky enough! Stir some more, and here we all are, commenting away......

    November 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  13. Casey

    This guy has class...

    November 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  14. Larry L

    It's all mythology unsupported by reality – a remake of the story of the Egyptian god Horus. Still, they work toward a Christian theocracy. It's a dangerous bunch of religion-crazed zeolots. They are the American Taliban.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Jh

      Wow relax Larry and take comfort in knowing that God loves you!

      November 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  15. >

    CNN message board posters > Tebow

    November 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  16. Scanever

    I can't believe this author wrote, "sewing controversy." The word is sowing, not sewing. Do CNN writers and editors have any education at all? Unbelievable.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Larry L

      Is your comma used correctly? I really don't know... but mistakes happen.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  17. Robert Yarush

    Why is this a debate?? Players have been praying for as long as I can recall. This is not a big deal... and the media should dignify it as such. Move to the next subject.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Larry L

      This is why God doesn't have time to devote to illness, rain and war. He's too busy worrying about field goals, touchdowns and extra points! He needs a bigger hard-drive.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  18. Bal

    I don't usually leave comments here , but felt like I have to, this time around.How classy is this ? "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." . Even though people are ridiculing him and making fun of him, he is seeing the positive side of things. I would always "tebow" for Tebow and hope that he succeeds.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  19. Les

    Slow news day huh?Who cares what the guy does?

    November 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  20. Smallbizstar

    Watching Tebow has always been a little irritating to me. I can't deny his amazing athleticism, but I really am annoyed by his overt display of religion. It comes across as some sort of weird self-righteousness. I don't know...it just doesn't bode well with me. I know that people have the right to worship when and where they want, but it's almost like he imposes his faith on everyone, I don't respect that. When I am at work, I can't publicly pray and talk about God in the workplace. When Tebow is at work, he shouldn't be able to do that either.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Yeti37

      Quit your job then. It is a work place rule, not a federal law. The NFL doesn't have a policy against it so he can do it.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
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