Tim Tebow is pretty well known for his open Christian faith, and his commitment and public expression of his faith, combined with his many off-the-field achievements and contributions, have presented him with a number of opportunities to speak in public.*
On April 28th, Tim is slated to speak during a Sunday worship service at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, a fact that should not come as a surprise, nor should it, under normal circumstances, bring with it much controversy. But the issue that many have with Tebow’s engagement at First Baptist Church in particular is that this “megachurch” is led by Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress, who has take some rather controversial social stances, including openly speaking out against Muslims, Jews, Mormons and the LGBT community.
And that’s not all.
Some of Jeffress’ more colorful statements include proclamations that Hinduism and Buddhism are “false religions, accusations that re-electing Barack Obama would ”lead to the rise of the Antichrist” (he also has openly criticized the Morman religion, calling it a “cult,” while simultaneously supporting the Mitt Romney campaign) and claims that gay activists are trying to hide “the link between homosexuality and pedophilia” and that gays should not be permitted to serve in the military because “seventy percent of the gay population” has AIDS.
But wait, there’s more.
At the heart of Jeffress’ bigotry (and a fact that is mysteriously left out of the majority of mainstream media reports on this story) are his anti-Catholic rants, a form of Christianity he calls “satan’s religion” that has been “corrupted by cults.”
So, this church isn’t just anti-gay or anti-Semitic, it’s anti A LOT of things.
I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone’s religious beliefs – and I will agree that Jeffress and those that attend this church are entitled to their opinion and to speak freely on that opinion – but my personal opinion, that I am also entitled to speak freely, is that if I am Tim Tebow, this dude Jeffress is not someone that I want to be associated with.
Tebow, a devout Evangelical, has been extremely open about his beliefs and made it known in his book, in his many appearances throughout the country and in his various media interviews, that his desire is to use the platform of football and his celebrity for good – reach and inspire those around him.
By merely speaking at First Baptist Church we cannot assume that endorses Jeffress’ controversial views but we also cannot assume that he doesn’t. And that is the problem.
Despite any opinion I might have about his performance on the field, I have always found Tebow to be a decent human being with a rather remarkable ability to inspire and lift others, but I am concerned about how something like this might dilute – to borrow a phrase from Darren Rovell (eww) “- his brand.” Tebow’s ties to a highly controversial church and pastor will not be looked upon well, especially in the New York community, and especially not at a time when social change is having such a moment.
Regardless of what Tebow’s personal beliefs may or may not be, by merely speaking at the church, he becomes the subject of controversy by association.
Moreover, as we transition into a time of real social change, the subject of homosexuality in particular continues to be a highly controversial and hot button topic in the NFL. 49ers DB Chris Culliver’s disparaging comments about homosexuality the week before the Super Bowl, contrasted with marriage equality activism from Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo, have brought the issue front and center into a culture that for the most part, doesn’t speak on the subject. It will be interesting to see if Tebow takes any kind of stance on Jeffress’ anti-gay beliefs in particular, given the recent conversation on the subject and the subsequent fallout that has resulted in many players openly expressing their discomfort with the idea of a gay teammate.
Religion and the beliefs that accompany them are a difficult and controversial subject to talk about – especially in sports – yet somehow Tim Tebow has mostly managed to be steadfast and open about his faith without “offending” too many people. But it’s highly likely that Tebow’s engagement at First Baptist Church could change all of that, creating even more dividing lines around the high-profile athlete – if you can even believe that’s possible – and possibly tarnishing the seemingly unblemished brand that is “Tim Tebow.”
*Note: Based on my research, Tim’s speaking engagements are booked exclusively through a company called AthletePromotions.com. According to the prweb.com, they charge somewhere between has a booking fee of $30,000 to $50,000 per event, and book for “colleges, churches and corporations.” Not a bad way to earn a living.
And in other Tim Tebow news, there is THIS: