Tim Tebow and the Awkward Double Standard


So Tim Tebow has become a verb. To “Tebow” is to kneel in prayer in the course of of a football game. I can certainly understand why this has become a huge internet meme and the source of endless questions and sports talk discussion and mockery. After all, no high-profile player has ever done that before:



James Jones Endzone Pray

Okay. So perhaps it’s not all THAT rare. Maybe it just the fact that Tebow is seen praying on the sidelines that’s so unprecedented. Or not:


The fact is, although there may be no crying in baseball, but there has always been praying in football. And lot’s of thanking of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Remember how the Minnesota Vikings’ great Cris Carter used to begin every postgame interview with a thirty-second “praise the Lord” before answering the question he was asked. You could almost hear the TV director’s eyes rolling out in the trailer, but I loved it. And to my knowledge, Carter’s expressions of faith–both vocal and visual–were never a source of controversy or high-profile mockery.

Hall of Fame

Cris Carter

For years I watched former OU Sooner tight end Keith Jackson take a knee to thank God after every touchdown–something the six-time Pro Bowler had occasion to do 49 times in his nine stellar seasons in the NFL. And I don’t recall anyone ever having a problem with Jackson’s kneeling. And it certainly wouldn’t have become an internet meme even if there had been such a thing as the internet when he burst on the scene.

And then there was perennial All-Pro defensive lineman Reggie White:


White’s faith only became controversial after he committed the unpardonable sin, i.e.,  made some politically incorrect remarks about homosexuality.

So in the light of all this, why is Tim Tebow’s faith suddenly a huge honking deal? Why is Tim “wearing his faith on his sleeve,” and “jamming his Christianity down our throats” as I heard one profanity-spewing ESPN Radio guest describe it a few days ago, while dozens of other NFL players who make the same kinds of statements of and exhibit very similar displays get a pass?

Here’s a hypothesis. Take a look at Tebow and the other pictures above and then play a quick game of “One of the These Things is Not Like the Others.”

Is it possible that the popular culture is much more likely to accept/overlook expressions of faith in God from black folks than from white folks? Is there a double standard in the media? I suspect that’s the case. In fact, this is a phenomenon I first start noticing several years ago in the movie and music business.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that black artists and actors can openly express a Christian faith without becoming pariahs in Hollywood. I just wish other Christians had the same experience.

Frankly, there is something subtly condescending and patronizing in a “oh, aren’t they adorable” way about the manner in which Hollywood and the media elites ignore or even praise Christian faith in African-American celebrities and athletes even while mocking or condemning it in others.

It doesn’t surprise me when the popular media trains fire hoses of scorn and vicious mockery on politicians who are outspoken about their Christian faith (see: George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, et. al.) I recognize there is an invisible, spiritual component fueling the animus. Nor does surprise me that Tim Tebow, whose John 3:16 face paint became a media meme back when Florida played for the national championship against Oklahoma, comes in for special derision from a fallen culture.

But it would be nice if some of the critics would at least have the decency to recognize that the reason Tim keeps talking about his faith is that he keeps getting asked about it.