Tim Tebow has made three decisions that will impact his future as an NFL player; playing in the Senior Bowl, working with a full time quarterback coach, and participating in a commercial with Focus On The Family.
Tebow and his mother have filmed a commercial promoting Focus On The Family's campaign against legalized abortion. That Pam Tebow risked her life in order to carry Tim to full term is a compelling story. Focus On The Family is banking on that story resonating with casual fans, who don't know that doctors told Pam that she or Tim could die in pregnancy due to complications from amoebic dysentery.
While at Florida, you could have made an educated guess that Tebow was a Republican. Focus On The Family is not Republican though. They are hardcore conservative. It would be as if Tebow was a Democrat endorsing ACORN. There is nothing wrong with endorsing candidates or parties, being pro-life or pro-choice. But for a guy entering the pros, Tebow cannot be aligning himself with groups that exist on the fringes of American politics.
Focus On The Family and founder Dr. James Dobson have spent the last 30 years campaigning against gay rights (including pulling teh ghey out of you), against legalized abortion and against public schools. I would say there is a pretty good chance that Tim Tebow would believe in all three of these. Even if that was the case, these are polarizing issues, not like raising money for his father's mission or the United Way. Tebow can't afford to make these endorsements as a rookie. (There is already a facebook group against the Focus On The Family ad. And it's not a fun one like "I'm with Coco.")
Tebow has to consider his statements as to who drafts him. In purple Florida, you can be hardcore conservative, especially with an adoring fanbase that doesn't give a damn who you vote for as long as you win. If Tebow gets drafted by Peter King's pick of San Francisco, how would Tebow react to that? How would he answer questions about his association to Dobson's anti-gay rights agenda in the capital of gay rights? You could ask the same question if Tebow is drafted by the Bills, who pull a large share of their fanbase from liberal Canada. (However, Tebow wouldn't be the first politically active Bills QB. Former Bills QB and Congressman, the late Jack Kemp, was a Goldwater Republican who served nine terms representing his Western New York district. He was also HUD Secretary and 1996 Republican VP nominee.) In Florida, Tebow has some "political capital," as GWB would say. Anywhere else, Tebow has none until he wins.
Maybe Tebow already has a sophisticated and nuanced answer lined up to these questions. I hope he does, because wherever Tebow goes, he will be an A1 story. That means news reporters not swayed by jump passes like we are. You'll see more stories like this Orlando Sentinel story, which raises questions about the relationship between Bob Tebow's charities and UF. I don't think Tebow, or any athlete, would be capable of handling the press after making a polarizing political statement. (No matter how sure pro-life or pro-choice people are about their position, abortion is still a polarizing issue. Polls have people 50/50 on the issue, with moderate views usually being the top choices in polls.)
My concern is that Tebow wants to make a statement about being pro-life, while thinking he can stay out of a political argument. But Focus On The Family will drag him into the muck of politics. After poor conservative performances in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Focus On The Family will take whatever they can get, including Number 15. If Tebow is so set on making this type of statement right now, speak to schools and churches. He shouldn't give liberals an opportunity to bash him before he plays a down in the pros.
Of course, this could be all for naught. In 2004, CBS rejected Super Bowl advertisements from PETA, the liberal United Church of Christ and MoveOn. There is no such thing as equal time, but CBS would be up crap creek without a paddle if they air the Focus On The Family ad after rejecting liberal groups. And for all the chest thumping Focus On The Family has done about the ad, no one is reporting that it will actually be seen. You would think that Focus On The Family would know by now when their ad airs. I'm guessing that they are not saying anything about an air slot because CBS is reviewing the ad.
Five years ago, I wrote an article that attempted to explore the relationship between religion and sports for The Alligator. I interviewed a Catholic priest, a Rabbi, and the then presidents of UF's Atheist and Islam on Campus groups. Since this was pre-Tebow, the athletic examples were former UF tennis player Jennifer Magley (who was Tebowesque in terms of faith and charity work) and Muhammad Ali. While implying that sports was our secular religion (where else do you chant, sing and gather with like minded people?), the article endorsed athletes expressing their faith. That's why I don't have a problem with Tebow encouraging people to be Christians, advocating abstinence, or saying a prayer when he gets to the end zone.
I do have a problem with Tebow becoming the face of a fringe political group and doing it during the Super Bowl, two months before Draft Day. If Tebow thinks he will be a successful pro, he will have plenty of time and money to promote his values. And he can do it on his own, not as a front for a political organization.