Tim Tebow had planned to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and this scheduled speaking appearance would have brough about some heated debate and controversy. After apparently re-thinking the implications of making that appearance, the New York Jets quarterback will not open himself up to a potential public relations disaster. While it may be a "smart" move in terms of his public image and endearing himself to any NFL team still interested in him, it's also a sad commentary on the state of public figures, free speech and guilt by association. Tim Tebow was set to speak to the congregation on April 28.
Just about any reasonable person will tell you there's not a whole lot to dislike about New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. Plenty of people grew tired of Tebowmania, and many more think he has no business being a quarterback in the NFL, but most people are able to recognize that he is a good person who has made an effort to help others. That comes in large part from his faith and he has been making speaking appearances, big and small, well before he was receiving an NFL paycheck.
That's what makes the controversy that surrounded his scheduled appearance at the First Baptist Church of Dallas leave a bad taste. Senior pastor Robert Jeffress made past comments that led to the church being labeled as "anti-Semitic" and "anti-gay." But does anyone really think Tim Tebow was going to jump up to that podium and start railing against those two groups?
You can bet that Tebow identified the First Baptist Church of Dallas as a congregation with a huge following, presenting an opportunity to share his beliefs with a large number of people willing to listen. It's a classic case of guilt by association, an attitude that speaking somewhere means that you support everything anyone associated with that place has ever done or said.
The kicker here is that while some have poked fun at Tim Tebow for thanking God in his interviews, he's nowhere near overbearing in terms of pushing his faith on others near the football field. Other NFL players have taken that to an extreme in the past. Knowing how important faith is to Tim Tebow, it's clearly been a conscious effort on his part not to alienate his teammates or create an uncomfortable presence in the locker room. But when he accepts an opportunity to speak to a large group of people that want to hear him speak, those charged with covering his football career stick their noses in and piece together the appearance with past comments from the senior pastor and create a negative air around the appearance.
Is it possible that Tim Tebow was nudged by someone associated with the NFL to cancel the appearance? Or did someone else close to him suggest he cancel? We'll likely never know. Here's Tim Tebow's own words, shared on his Twitter account: