'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. Spelling prig

    "And even some of Tebow's better moments on the field are sewing controversy." What you mean to say is that his better moments are SOWING controversy, not SEWING controversy. Look up both words.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Phil Connors

      "They're hicks, Rita."

      November 10, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  2. Marine5484

    Well.....I guess it is better then planking.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  3. Richard

    What Tim Tebow's detractors say or do really doesn't matter. Nothing anyone else can say or do takes away from Tim Tebow's faith, commitment, and the testimony he gives with the way he lives his life. He makes some people uncomfortable because he's not a hypocrite. Tim Tebow's athletic skills were much more adaptable to the college game, BUT now that Denver is one game out of first place in their division . . . winning with this quarterback is much more important than showing the Denver fans he can't play before the Broncos move on. Do understand this: I hate Denver. I have hated Denver since the Raiders were first the Senors. I still cheered Tim Tebow's success in beating my team.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  4. mmi16

    If it is what make Tim tick – so be it!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  5. jonathan

    sam bradford also won the heisman as a sophmore. the year after tebow won.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  6. Bernie

    Haters gonna Hate, but it did seem like the light was shining in the darkness of the Black Hole Sunday!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  7. Pat

    Why does it have to be a religous thing, its just a natural body postion. Like an atheist can not take a knee now to think or take a moment for whatever. god is just an extention of ones own mind in a state of reflection or communication to oneself. Like god really did anything for anyone, you did it and just need to believe you can, if god did it make him a quarterback. If god did do favors for one person and not the other then thats cheating, so the only logical thing to do it god exists is to ban him from sports events.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Pat

      Point is if the man whats to talk to himself leave it alone and mind your own business or phone god and tell him to stop answering the phone. But I think this guys probably just gettind a dial tone gods got bigger issues then football.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  8. James

    Talk is about god vs Skill and Sharpening your practice. what would have been of Pat Tillman?

    November 10, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm curious why you are commenting continually on Pat Tillman. Your comment doesn't make a lot of sense, but I truly hope you are not insulting a man who gave up millions of dollars to serve his country and was killed as a consequence. He was a better man than this Tebow character could ever dream of being.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • James

      I'm Atheist

      November 10, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • fred

      Sorry to hear that

      November 10, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • tallulah13

      Then James, what is you point about Pat Tillman? I am truly curious, but you initial statement is ambiguous.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  9. James

    Talk about god vs Skill and Sharpening your practice. what would have been of Pat Tillman?

    November 10, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  10. PC

    I am not religious – but for some reason I feel Tebow is not a phony. I am cool with him and the tebowing.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • tallulah13

      I too think he is being honest with his thanks. The problem I have is that thanking god for a favorable outcome in a child's game is selfish. There are horrific things going on in the world. If god would miraculously take care of that, I would kneel. Were I Tebow, I would very privately ask god to help those who don't have professional sport contracts, and I would publicly thank my teammates, because they are the ones helping on the field.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  11. BigRed

    The only thing the man is doing is trying to get everyone to notice him. "Look everybody, am I not cool and righteous? Look at me. I'm worthy of your attention. Look at me I'm praying and trying to get attention."

    November 10, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Buzzer

      ASSumptions are risky to your creditability....

      November 10, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  12. Alien Orifice

    Hey Ya'll, HeavenSent thinks that children who are molested by pedophiles deserve it! Who wants to jump on the HeavenSent bandwagon?? Those damn kids, they are just asking for it!! Right??

    November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • HS

      That was not me earlier. That was YOU using MY name trying to make me look bad. You have been doing it for a while now. I know your other screen names as well, Central Scrutinizer, Sheik Yerbouti and Father O'Blivion. Name change much? You are a liar. How many other handles do you steal? I've seen quite a bit of trolling and it stinks of your words.


      November 10, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      HS, you might check your pants. With all that lying, they must be on fire by now.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  13. Grogg

    Tebow is a good QB that deserves a chance and more time, religion or not. Others were given more games and either succeeded or failed, I believe that Tim can and will succeed and become a great QB. As for the religious part, to each his own. If NFL players wish to emulate others in praise or jeer, I say that is their choice but I do admire the "Tebowing" and similar gestures of faith and the spirit of champions! Cheers to all you winners and losers alike....

    November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  14. chris

    why does someone praying offend anyone? IT's not shoving anything down anyone's throat. I don't complain when I see fat chicks wearing tube tops. When you go out in public you deal. Get over it you whining moaning babies. oh no...someone is praying, whatever shall I do?! lolololol....

    November 10, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  15. sarcasmic53

    maybe he was good at Florida because Jesus actually listened to his prayers on Saturdays. NFL Sundays? guess prayers don't have same effect... how dare he bother someone on his day off!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • James

      He's A big dude,He's an alright runner and Has practiced For Years. iIhave seen him play in high school he was one of the best on that level. But Practicing has nothing to do with god

      November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  16. Mike H.

    To those who mock religion and claim it is no more than a man-made creation...well, I was once one of you. I considered religion to be a crutch - nothing more - for weak people. Thankfully my eyes were opened and I realize how wrong I was. God is present and proof is all around. As for Tim Tebow, there will be those who poke fun at him but those are not the people he serves. Why should he care what other people are doing around him so long as he is serving God?

    November 10, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Frank Bund

      Which of the thousands of religions did you choose from? How did you choose? Did you open up a book with all the names and point to one?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Buzzer

      Mike: religion and all its legalistic and ceremonial junk is "manmade"...I can only speak for what being a real Christian is all about...and it has nothing to do with religion.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  17. Greg

    I can't wait til Italy collapses and the people sack the Vatican. This is when the truth will shine. We will all learn that religion is a made up hoax played on humanity to control us. The "mass awakening" of the world will be when everyone sees first hand Church evidence that it's all been a lie.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Buzzer

      Greg: Is being a Christian a relationship with the Pope and the Vatican or with Christ and God?

      November 10, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • sonic10158

      @Greg idiot, you are thinking about CATHOLICISM, not all of Christianity. There is protestantism (baptist, episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, etc), Eastern Orthodox, and Catholicism in Christianity. sacking the vatican will stop ONLY the catholic church

      November 10, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  18. dudley0415

    His faith is the only thing Tim Tebow is unrepentant about.

    November 10, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • dudley0415

      It's a Christian thing. You wouldn't understand.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Dan

      You probably drive a jeep. (Rhymes with "sheep")

      November 10, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • dudley0415


      November 10, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • tallulah13


      That was laugh-out-loud funny.

      November 10, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  19. James

    He Will Never when a super bowl!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Joytstick

      He will, before..........YOU. 😛

      November 10, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  20. Clint

    Just want to make it clear. I am making fun of his faith. As if the Almighty God is taking sides in a football game! Because everyone knows, if God cared about football. He would be smart enough to back the Packers and not the Broncos!

    November 10, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • James

      I Was Just watching PBS about string theory. I Guess that why he won sunday

      November 10, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • tallulah13

      If there were a god, he'd be a hockey fan.

      November 10, 2011 at 12:54 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.