Religion continues to color sports

Now an ESPN analyst, Tim Tebow remains at the forefront of the religion vs. sports argument


Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is pictured here during his stint with the Denver Broncos. Tebow is well-known for his Christian beliefs, and some believe this is why he has turned to broadcasting.

Karsen Mitsche, Reporter

Religion in sports is nothing new. For decades, athletes can be seen praying before a game or pointing a finger in the sky during a game.  If players on two different teams are both praying for their team to win, both teams, it seems, cannot win. But at the same time most would agree that no matter what your beliefs are, religion in sports was never quite the story until Tim Tebow.

In 2010 Tebow, a quarterback who won two national championships and a Heisman trophy award at the University of Florida, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the NFL Draft. Tebow played two seasons for the Broncos, including an impressive playoff run in 2011 where he took over a 1-4 team and led them to the playoffs. He would not only lead the Broncos to the playoffs that year, but also beat the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL and the previous year’s AFC champions in the first round of the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow has not started an NFL game since that year. Tebow is a Heisman trophy winner, a national champion, first round draft pick, and playoff quarterback – now out of the league for, put simply, his religion.

While Tebow is a charismatic athlete known specifically for his devotion to Christianity, the buzz started when he was in high school and was anointed as the chosen one in an ESPN documentary. This buzz only grew larger in college, where in the 2009 national championship he had the bible verse “John 3:16” on his eye-black. This gesture led to 93 million Google searches on that verse the following day. In his pro days with the Denver Broncos, he would get down on one knee and pray during a game.

Tebow’s strong Christian faith made him one of the NFL’s most polarizing players after the Broncos drafted him. In 2011, he sold the second-highest number of jerseys in the NFL and this is where the problems began for him and his NFL career. His talent aside, teams do not like to deal with the idea of just an average quarterback getting the hype and following of a superstar. Because of this attention Tebow has struggled to get back into the NFL and has not been able to make an NFL roster since 2012, when he was traded to the New York Jets after the Broncos acquired superstar Peyton Manning to replace him.

Since Tebow’s miracle playoff run of 2011, religion in sports has rapidly become a bigger issue and has sparked the debate of whether or not religion has a place in sports. Professional sports franchises like the Los Angeles Clippers have recently decided that players can only pray in private by themselves to get rid of the divide religion can have on a locker room. Religion will continue to be a big issue in sports for years to come, but nobody sparked the debate quite like Tim Tebow.