NFL FanHouse writer Dan Graziano tried to sound concerned in his Feb. 4 column about the collaboration of Tim Tebow and Focus on the Family for a pro-life Super Bowl ad. It quickly became apparent, however, that Graziano's main point was to vilify Focus on the Family.
"Tebow must be careful as he moves from the world of collegiate athletics, where he was an unassailable hero, to that of professional sports, where he'll be a target," wrote Graziano. "He's going to have to make good decisions about the people with whom he surrounds and aligns himself. And in this case, by lining up with the group behind the controversial ad, Tebow has made a poor decision."
Graziano claimed Focus on the Family "conned" Tebow and used his stance on abortion "as the hook and reeled him in for use in the proliferation of all aspects of their agenda" because he is "ready-made superstar who wears his religious faith unapologetically on his eye black." He concluded that "Tebow is being used by a special-interest group whose mission is to compel people to think and live according to its rules and beliefs."
According to Graziano, Focus on the Family is "an extremist organization that aggressively preaches hate, intolerance and anti-intellectualism."
"Its agenda opposes not just abortion but also embryonic stem cell research. It doesn't just oppose homosexuality, it believes in ‘therapy' for homosexuals for the purpose of ‘changing same-sex attraction and behaviors," he continued. "It doesn't merely favor ‘school choice' for the purpose of imposing prayer in publicly funded schools, it openly disdains and calls for a reversal of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment's establishment clause regarding the separation of church and state."
Graziano urged Tebow to "think about what he's doing here and, who he's helping."
"Does Tebow realize that by aligning himself with Focus on the Family he is toughening that group's resolve and ability to fight for its most small-minded, hate-driven issues - not just the issue about which he feels most strongly?" asked Graziano.
"It won't be the last time somebody tries to use Tebow, especially not if he succeeds in transforming from star college athlete to star pro athlete," stated Graziano. "If it's the first time, and if this is the decision he's made, it doesn't say a lot about one aspect of Tebow that people cite when they argue that he might be able to make it as a quarterback in the NFL: His judgment."
Other sportswriters have not taken issue with the fact that Focus on the Family is behind the ad and don't see a problem with Tebow's judgment.
"Here's what we do need a lot more of: Tebows. Collegians who are selfless enough to choose not to spend summers poolside, but travel to impoverished countries to dispense medical care to children, as Tebow has every summer of his career," she insisted. "Athletes who believe in something other than themselves, and are willing to put their backbone where their mouth is. Celebrities who are self-possessed and self-controlled enough to use their wattage to advertise commitment over decadence."
And Jenkins considers herself pro-choice.
Over at ESPN.com, Jemele Hill lined up behind Tebow. "I don't care if you're pro-choice or pro-life, conservative or liberal, God-fearing or atheist, you've got to admire Tebow for standing with conviction, even as he's opening himself and his family up to criticism," she wrote in a Feb. 2 column. We often commend athletes for taking a stand - as long as it's a stand with which most of us agree. The minute they start pushing a social agenda that conflicts with our own, we tell them to shut up."
Hill went so far as to point out the hypocrisy in praising other sports figures for expression support of liberal polices or politicians.
"We acted like Tiger Woods and LeBron James were the second coming of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi because Woods voiced his support for President Barack Obama and James condemned the war in Darfur," noted Hill. "I don't mean to belittle their opinions, but supporting Obama and condemning genocide isn't exactly joining the Black Panther party."
"It's far more impressive when a person in Tebow's position chooses a lonelier path," she added.