Anything Jets quarterback Tim Tebow does has a tendency to be in the news, and his decision to cancel a speaking engagement at a Dallas church is no different. That church is headed by Robert Jeffress, who once wrote a sermon called, “Why Gay is Not OK” and said re-electing Barack Obama would lead to the rise of the antichrist.
Tebow is pretty plugged in to the Christian community, so it’s surprising he didn’t connect the church to its leader’s views a little sooner. Tebow has been known to take a conservative stance in the past, appearing in a commercial for the anti-abortion group Focus on the Family during the 2010 Super Bowl.
But it’s his current statement that matters to those who want to end discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Hudson Taylor founded Athlete Ally, a group that recruits athletes to take a public stance in support of teammates regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks of Tebow’s decision as a not-so-subtle rejection of Jeffress’ ideas.
“I applaud Tim Tebow's decision to cancel his appearance,” Taylor said. “Regardless of his reasoning, his absence serves as a reminder that the discrimination of gay and lesbian athletes and individuals has no place in sports or society. I hope Tim will take this opportunity to speak out for respect and acceptance of all people, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation.”
In the statement he released about skipping the Dallas speaking engagement, Tebow said he was “looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ's unconditional love with” the church members before “new information” came to his attention.
Tebow isn’t one to make grand political statements. Asked several times last year who he was supporting for president, he said he was still weighing his options. But the use of “unconditional love” in canceling his appearance seems to point to a dismissal of intolerant views.
Brian Ellner worked on New York’s campaign for marriage equality, which enlisted actors and athletes like Sean Avery and Steve Nash to tape spots in support of the cause. Now part of Athlete Ally, Ellner sees Tebow’s cancellation as part of a groundswell.
“Tim Tebow’s decision underscores the major cultural change we are seeing in sports,” Ellner said. “We are at a cultural tipping point with more and more athletes standing on the right side of history.”