You wonder where all these Tim Tebow fans were when the former Heisman Trophy winner, ex-Denver Broncos starting quarterback and outspoken Christian was struggling to find work. Or whether Tebow minds that his name is being invoked to represent the forces of God in this week’s latest culture war. But it certainly didn’t take long for conservatives to find their platform for protesting the St. Louis Rams’ decision to draft openly gay University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam with the 249th pick in last week’s NFL draft.
The Tebow-Sam double-standard argument is a transparently desperate attempt at misdirection.
The word spread like gospel, from select right-wing media pundits and social media-savvy pastors on down to Sam’s opponents on the field and your average outraged person of faith. “TIM TEBOW GOT CRITICIZED FOR BEIN ALL ABOUT GOD BUT MICHAEL SAM IS A HERO FOR BEIN GAY, THE END IS NEAR,” Tweeted @ShawnHindriix in sensible all-caps. “It sickens me that Michael Sam is praised and applauded for being Gay, but when Tebow professes the name of Christ he is kicked to the curb,” echoed @AustinRob27, complete with an emphatic capital “G” in “Gay.” Mr. Rob then clarified that, “It sickens me because it’s wrong and Tebow doesn’t throw it in your face he just gives credit where it is due.”
That last point is debatable. Likewise, Sam’s tenuous acceptance into pro sports (being drafted doth not a roster spot guarantee) hardly seems to have incited the Lord’s decisive hand. Putting such grandiosity aside, the Tebow-Sam double-standard argument is such a transparently desperate attempt at misdirection that it’s almost hard to take offense. Tim Tebow wasn’t persecuted for his faith. Nor did he endure a popular opinion that bowing down in prayer before games and after touchdowns amounted to “sickening,” “nasty ass shit,” which was one-time Ole Miss basketball player Marshall Henderson’s response to SportsCenter footage of Sam and boyfriend Vito Cammisano’s celebratory smooch. (Henderson has since backtracked via this hilariously half-assed yarn.)
If Tim Tebow’s a true man of conviction, he’d refuse to be used as a martyr when it’s convenient.
Tebow’s earnestness, not his widely supported belief in Jesus as his savior, made him easy to pick on. No standup comic, late-night host or midnight Facebook antagonist can defeat the spirit of someone so empowered by their spirituality and gifted with wealth, good looks and gads of acolytes on and off the field. But the confidence of a man like Michael Sam, who simply opted not to hide in fear despite risk of great prejudice, can easily be crushed when a potential ally such as Florida State linebacker DeMarcus Walker unapologetically Tweets, “Y’all praise Michael Sam for being gay but y’all mocked Tim Tebow for being a Christian. Smh #Society.” (And just in case we doubted DeMarcus’ courageous resolve, he illustrated his sentiments toward dissenting views with this captioned still of Kevin Hart, who’s recently retired jokes at the gay community’s expense after blowback from bits like this.)
If Tim Tebow’s a true man of conviction, he’d express gratitude for all this fair-weather advocacy, but skepticism about its timing. He’d refuse to be used as a martyr when it’s convenient, especially when at the expense of someone else’s right to feel loved and un-judged (and in lieu of an honest discussion). Or maybe, like Michael Sam, his focus is where it should be: on training to make the cut in an NFL locker room this fall. And maybe DeMarcus Walker’s just jealous.