Tim Tebow. It’s a name many know well, but not just because of his football record. The player’s fervent religious convictions have been much discussed in the media since he rose to prominence. Tebow’s success has spread ‘Tebowmania’, and people everywhere now copy Tebow’s signature celebration of praying on one knee, referred to as ‘Tebowing.’ My first article about Tebow discussed his great success as quarterback for the Denver Broncos throughout this past season. The article did not, however, touch upon the controversial aspects of Tebow’s over publicized faith, and the fact that he is considered the NFL’s most religious player.
The other night I was watching Tebow’s Broncos, who had surprised the world again by advancing to the second round of the playoffs, play Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, often considered one of the best teams in football. The game was midway through the second quarter and the Broncos were losing badly. During a commercial break, an ad came on featuring a bunch of children speaking together on screen. I wasn’t really paying attention at first, but as the ad continued, I realized it was a bible verse. The reading was John 3:16, and the ad intentionally came during a time when Tebow, the most outspoken religious player in professional sports, was playing. I usually have no problem with Tebow’s religious nature; I laud his restraint from drugs and sex, and ignore his post game thanks to Jesus for helping him on his miraculous wins. I even find myself defending Tebow for his sincerely held beliefs when others are arguing that he is slowly taking football’s secularity away. But this commercial went too far, and was a direct result of Tebow’s behavior.
Focus on the Family (FOTF), the Christian organization who aired the ad, said later that “Tebow … is the cultural phenomenon that inspired [the commercial].” I was annoyed at this ad more as a football fan, than a non-Christian/Jew. When did football become about advertising particular religious beliefs? The ad was FOTF’s second in the last year, the first one featured Tebow with his mother, while a third ad was rejected by FOX for last year’s super bowl (that commercial also centered around the verse John 3:16). I feel an ad with such religious affiliation has no place in football. The NFL has offered an optional post game prayer service, but players are invited to pray by themselves to accommodate for different religions. The NFL has always tried to keep religion out of its sports, but allowing this commercial failed to do so.
Tim Tebow’s religious impact on the NFL should not overshadow his success in the league, or his miraculous ability to win. That being said, the NFL has always been successful in keeping religion out of its sport, and Tebow’s impact has partially removed that secularity. Religion and football should be kept separate, and the NFL should work to prevent commercials or advertisements that work to advance and spread particular beliefs (religious or otherwise).
Although it is unfortunate that religion was brought to the game of football, it is worth noting that, at the end of the day, the first amendment gives companies like Focus on the Family the right to air commercials inspired by and featuring specific athletes.
To watch the commercial that aired in the second quarter of last saturday’s game, click here.