Outspoken Christian athlete Tim Tebow, now the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, has been widely criticized by many in the media. NFL analysts are starting to admit that criticism, in large part, has been because of his faith.
''Inside the NFL'' analyst and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth concluded that much of the hatred against Tebow was based on his religious beliefs. Responding to a question from fellow host James 'JB' Brown, Collinsworth showed his disgust for Tebow's treatment: ''It's unbelievable, though, JB, that one of the best kids - just pure kids that's ever come into the NFL - is hated because of his faith, because of his mission work, because of the fact that he wears it on his sleeve, because of the fact that he lives his life that he talks about.''
This isn't the first time the issue has come up. Many sportswriters and fans have mocked Tebow and hoped to see him fail - in large part, his defenders have argued, because of his strong Christian beliefs. Other football analysts are starting to agree with that assessment.
NBCsports.com commentator Jelisa Castrodale argued: “The NFL's other backup-turned-starters don't generate this type of negativity.” And CBS analyst and former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross blamed the media for anti-Tebow coverage: ''People, especially the media, root against him because of what he stands for.''
Showtime Sports' Oct. 12 edition of 'Inside the NFL' featured a nearly 5-minute segment on Tebow. Analysts Brown and Collinsworth were joined by former NFL stars Warren Sapp and Phil Simms discussing Tebow's faith - and the controversial reactions to it.
Brown teased the segment: ''This is a guy that you either love to have him or you hate to love him. What is it about him that folks are so polarized?''
Brown and Collinsworth concluded that much of the hatred against Tebow was based on faith. Brown pointed out: ''There's a number of guys who come into the league with a big marquee, fat paychecks, a lot of attention, and folks don't seem to hate them with the same intensity that they hate Tim Tebow.'' Collinsworth concurred with Brown: ''I couldn't agree with you more. And it's kind of a sad commentary, that, you know, if someone is out carousing every night, the Joe Namath thing, or whatever, they're American heroes, and Tim Tebow, who's working in missions in Asia somewhere, is a guy that we're going to vilify.''
Tebow has indeed been vilified for his Christian faith and beliefs. Commentators have taken aim at him because of his religion and pro-life stance. One sportswriter compared Tebow's confidence that he will start in the NFL to blasphemy. 'Daily Show' comedian John Oliver declared: ''I dislike Robert Mugabe. I hate Tim Tebow.''
The vitriol directed against Tebow is how religion and people of faith are often treated in the media, which often seeks to remove any mention of religion from public life entirely, including in sports.