The only Tim Tebow headline you’ll ever read without a religious pun in it

A new poll says Tim Tebow is now America’s most popular athlete.

And that’s big news for underwear. ” It’s very exciting for us. He is the hottest athlete in the country today,” Dustin Cohn, chief marketing officer of Jockey, said in the Detroit Free Press. Jockey has an endorsement deal with Tebow.

SportsCenter on ESPN dedicated an entire show to Tebow and nothing but Tebow. Twitter really appreciated that.

I’ve written in the past about generally being tired of mixing an analysis of his football ability with the depth of his spiritual beliefs, but this bit on Conan requires I made an exception.

Today, the Washington Post asks if Tebow would rank as high if he were Muslim.

Chris Jackson joined the Denver Nuggets as a third-round draft pick in 1990 and converted to Islam a few years later, changing his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. As a point guard, Abdul-Rauf was fun to watch; he led the NBA in free-throw shooting for two years, dished the assists and was one of the Nuggets leading scorers. And he did all this despite having Tourette syndrome, which often caused him to twitch oddly on the court.

But in March 1996, about five years after his conversion, Abdul-Rauf decided his faith prohibited him from standing for the national anthem. He came to think of the American flag as “a symbol of oppression and tyranny.”

The reaction was swift: the NBA suspended Abdul-Rauf for a game. The public outcry was brutal. Four radio station employees charged into a Denver mosque to play the anthem on a trumpet and bugle; they were charged with misdemeanors.

This is a question also asked today on, also invoking Abdul-Rauf for a clue, but also mentioning other Muslim athletes, including the former Cassius Clay.

By now, even casual boxing fans are familiar with Ali’s quote “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” That one quote made Ali a social activist. And his social activism was based on his faith. Ali claimed that Islam prohibited war unless called for by Allah. That one belief made Ali’s religion a wider social issue. What followed was public outcry. Ali was stripped of his championship belt, had his boxing license suspended, and was convicted of draft evasion. The Supreme Court ultimately overturned it. But for four years, Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time, did not fight.

So Muhammad Ali stood up (or in this case, sat out) for his religious beliefs. He made his religion a visible aspect of his life and a visible aspect of his professional boxing career. Just like Tim Tebow 40 years later. Just like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf 30 years later. Ali was an outspoken proponent of his religion, Islam, but was vilified for his outspoken religious beliefs. His Islamic beliefs.

(h/t: Matt Quintanilla)

  • Jim Shapiro

    If I recall correctly, the founder of Christianity also called for not killing people, and he didn’t make any “holy war” exceptions.

    If Tebow can practice JC’s expressed message of love, compassion and forgiveness and play ball at the same time and wants to talk about it, it’s a free country.

    Anyone who use’s the concept of a “Holy War” to rationalize behavior -with no sense of irony – has immediately lost all credibility, and should be either ignored or monitored.

  • kennedy

    First off, I agree that thanking allah in a post game interview would have significantly less public apppeal than thanking God. However, I don’t get the examples given. One athlete becomes unpopular when he refuses to stand for the national anthem. Another becomes unpopular when he is drafted into the military but refuses to serve. After the draft controversy, Ali is still muslim and becomes the most popular athlete in the world. Other famous muslim athletes: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Tyson. Oh, and Tiger Woods is Buddhist.

    I don’t see where being a non-christian is holding anyone back.

  • Bob Collins

    //I don’t get the examples given. One athlete becomes unpopular when he refuses to stand for the national anthem. Another becomes unpopular when he is drafted into the military but refuses to serve.

    Both actions based on religious convictions

    // After the draft controversy,

    And losing his ability to make a living and being sentenced to vie years in prison.

    Tebow is not popular because of his football ability; he really doesn’t have much. He’s popular for his religion. The two gentlemen cited were unpopular because of their religion.

  • John P II

    I think a good underwear photographer could expand Mr Tebow’s popularity to an even wider audience. Maybe Jockey will make a line of linen or leather girdles like the early Christians wore.