If you want to mock Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow for his notoriously slow release or for being a better runner than a passer, feel free.
But mocking him for his Christian beliefs is out of bounds, according to ESPN's Jemele Hill.
"I don't care if Tebow is cemented as an NFL failure," Hill wrote, "that doesn't give people license to mock his faith."
Hill was referring to last Sunday's NFL game between Detroit and Denver, during which Lion players took to a knee in a prayer pose reminiscent of Tebow and his tendency to kneel in prayer before, during and after games.
"Prayer is a sacred component of any religion," Hill said. "Making fun of someone else's spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don't have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect."
Writing in the New York Times, Toni Monkovic acknowledged that "Tebow invites scrutiny with the very public nature of his religious beliefs, his evangelistic side. But let's imagine that a player displayed a Muslim religious ritual or one based on Hinduism? Would it be fair to mock those displays as well? If not, why is it fair game for Tebow?"
Of course, not everyone agrees with Hill's assessment. Associated Press sports columnist Tim Dahlberg said that "the craze was good for a few laughs." However, he added, "watching Tebow play was enough to make Denver fans want to cry."
Writing on Yahoo Sports, a blogger who identifies himself as MJD said "I know first-hand that any criticism of Tim Tebow is confused by many as a criticism of Tim Tebow's faith. But it's a big, big stretch to see that as what's happening here."
"To some people, taking a knee and bowing your head to your fist is a prayerful position," MJD continued. "To some people, it's just taking a knee and bowing your head to your fist. And to some others, it's just a tribute to Tim Tebow the football player. It would be a mistake to assume that what it means to you is what it means to everyone else."
Stephen Tulloch, one of the Lion players who "Tebowed" Tebow during the game, took a little heat for the pose. On Monday he tweeted: "I have a love & passion for the game of football. Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor, I wasn't mocking GOD!"
Evidently there are a lot of people who share Tulloch's sense of humor. "Tebowing" has replaced "planking" (posing in random locations as a stiff, straight plank of wood) as the latest internet sensation, according to London's Daily Mail, which posted an assortment of photos to prove the claim. (For more pictures and t-shirts, hoodies, baby bibs and way more Tebowing information than you'd ever care to know, check out www.tebowing.com.)
For his part, Tebow is completely comfortable with Tebowing.
"It's not my job to see people's reasons behind it," Tebow told Fox Sports. "But I know (of a kid) with cancer that tweeted me, 'Tebowing while I'm chemoing' — how cool is that?
"That's worth it right now," Tebow continued. "If that gives him any encouragement or puts a smile on his face, or gives him encouragement to pray, that's completely awesome."
Still, Tebow said, when he "Tebows" it is "serious for me. But at least it's being talked about, and that's a cool thing. If I can help be an example of that, then I look at that as a blessing."
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