Thursday, December 1, 2011

Athletes and Religion: The Case of Tim Tebow

I don't know much about Tim Tebow. I do know that he's a Christian. To use 21st century terminology, that's his brand. My impression is that he is serious and sincere in his religious convictions. And my impression is that media outlets have largely approved his displays of religious beliefs both on and off the football field.

I would love to hear a discussion about this. Maybe the subject has already been discussed at length, but I haven't heard it. If ESPN has covered it, I wouldn't know, because I find it painful to watch ESPN. And national sports talk radio shows strike me as boring and distasteful; for example, Jim Rome. But this does seem like a topic that Rome would delve into during his show.

What interests me about the general topic of athletes and religion is the question of appropriate (or inappropriate) displays of religious beliefs on the football field. Of course, what's considered appropriate or inappropriate is a subjective call. That's what makes it interesting. Over the years, I've listened to media figures talk about athletes who point to the sky after scoring a touchdown in negative ways. I've heard many a media personality condemn teammates who circle in the end zone to join in prayer. Overall, I would say that athletes who demonstrate their religious beliefs on the field of play have encountered disapproval. But with Tim Tebow, I'm not sure that's the case. But I defer to people who watch sports and cover sports for a living. They would know more about the tone and content of coverage with regard to Tebow.

If Tebow has generally received positive (or even neutral) coverage about his on-field displays of religious beliefs, that begs the question Why? If he has in fact been treated with respect for his religious convictions, I'm curious to know why this might be. I emphasize that I'm not exactly sure of how he's been treated, so that's why I'd love to hear more about the matter. I came across one story that describes mixed reactions to Tebow. The story includes a link to the website, which has pictures of people apparently imitating Tebow. Some of it's for laughs, some of it seems staged, so it's hard to tell if it's "all in good fun," or mockery, or something else.

I do want to mention race as a possible factor here. Over the years, athletes who faced criticism for on-field displays of religious beliefs have generally been black players. Is Tebow getting a positive response, in part, because he's a white player? Or because he's a white quarterback? I am posing these questions for discussion, I am not posing them as facts or as my opinion. As I've said, I don't know enough about how Tebow's been handled by media so far. I just wonder if race is part of the issue in this case. So I put all of this out there for contemplation and consideration.

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