The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports

Buzz, PR, Sports

January 27, 2010

Tim Tebow & The Football Pulpit

Tags: colts, football, nfl, saints, super bowl, tebow, tim tebow

Prelude: A few years ago, I ran the PR for an event called the National Quarterback Club Awards Dinner.  This

Me with Tim Tebow, holding his National High School Quarterback of the Year trophy.

organization presented awards to the to quarterbacks in high school, college, and professional ranks.  Just a few blocks away from the hotel where all the recipients were staying was a new restaurant I was also doing work with, so I arranged for the quarterbacks and their families to have dinner there the night before the ceremony.

While walking the block or two, I had a pleasant conversation with our high school QB of the Year and his mother.  When we got the restaurant, they invited me to sit with them.  That night, I had a wonderful meal with Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam.


When the Super Bowl airs in a few weeks, it will showcase a matchup of the NFL’s most dominant teams this year, the Colts and the Saints.  The Who will perform at halftime.  And the commercials will probably be a mixture of bloated budgets and clever humor.  All of which I am VERY excited for.

(Also, I will probably eat and drink and be merry.  It’s the Super Bowl!)

One commercial that has been purchased and produced is from the group “Focus on the Family” and it features the Tebow family.  Apparently, Pam got sick while she was pregnant.  She was advised to have an abortion, but she stuck to her Christian values and kept the child, who was born healthy and grew up to become perhaps one of the greatest NCAA quarterbacks of all time.  (Focus on the Family is a Christian-based group.)

Having met the Tebows while Tim was still in high school, I know that his belief system is legitimate.  This is what he believes his true and right.  I know many people may think it’s an act, but I can’t agree with that sentiment.

I will not use this space to debate the right/wrong of abortion.  And I am not interested in starting a Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice argument here.  (For the record, I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, that’s cool with me.  I don’t appreciate being told by others what to believe.)

However, what I think is a fair debate topic is this: How do you feel about athletes igniting the conversation about religous and/or political issues? And is it fair to do that during the Super Bowl?

  • Whether it's athletes, celebrities, political candidates or business leaders, the same rule should apply: don't stick your nose into an issue on which you have no credibility. Celebrities are notorious for becoming politically active in areas where they have no more authority than you or me -- Susan Sarandon, Chuck Norris, Sean Penn, for example.

    And the same would apply to Tim Tebow, except for the fact that he and his family are credible authorities in one facet of this very difficult topic. I respect that Tim is standing up for his opinion, but just having an opinion should not give license to voicing it on the national stage. Standing up for an opinion because it has been critical to the fabric of your life, however, is exactly when athletes, celebrities and other leaders should take to their national pulpit.
  • mikeschaffer
    Great comment - Tebow and his family definitely have a story to share here - she didn't abort the baby and look what he's become. That gives them credibility in telling their side of the story.

    I heard a great counter-point yesterday. If a woman medically needs an abortion, would she risk her own life (and maybe the child's) because the baby COULD grow up to be something great?
  • Susan Stern
    Any parent thinks their child is great. That's not really the issue. The issue is what those person's values are. They may be based on religious beliefs or they may be based on basic morals and life experiences. Everyone knows that it is a very personal decision.

    The thing that bothers me is that this organization claims that an abortion should never occur, despite the harm it can cause to the mother, the family, or even the child itself. They say, "Look, he's a great football player, so that proves abortion is bad." There would be other great football players/athletes/entertainers, etc. Ads like these, no matter who stars in them, bother me because they are elevating one person's or group's values above all others and claiming everyone else's as evil and murderous. I find it dangerous (look at all the abortion clinic attacks) and disrespectful of beliefs/values that are different from one's own.

    As far as athletes "igniting" these conversations, well... it's their right to talk about it. Free speech. I don't approve of making the locker room a church, though. Is it fair to air this ad during the Super Bowl? I don't think it's a matter of "fair" or "unfair." They paid for the slot, they get it. Do I feel happy about a religious commercial replacing the typical clever and hilarious ads telling me my values (religious and personal) are wrong? Absolutely not!!!
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for stopping by, Susan! This is a touchy issue because people are VERY passionate about their position.

    Best point - we lose a funny ad!
  • I agree with Seth here, great points! If you have a legitimate and credible leg to stand on, than by all means enter and/or present the conversation. What makes the public upset is when athletes/celebs enter the debate from an uneducated standpoint, and this seems to be the standard operating procedure when athletes/celebs do this.

    I just hope the spot gets the Tebow family's personal experience across, if not, he could get hammered much more than he probably will. Kudos to him though for not being afraid to do this, especially considering how close the draft and new marketing opportunities he is.
  • Sasha H. Muradali
    I love Tebow. Met him once while I was a student at UF, he's a great guy; extremely personable and nice.

    While, I may not agree with all of his views, I respect that he's a very moral person to is true to himself and that in itself is VERY admirable.

    I can't wait to see his commercial! And I hope he does well in the NFL. :)
  • mikeschaffer
    I hope he find success in the NFL, as well! He seems like a hard-working player with no ego, so that should allow him the flexibility to play anywhere on the field. Look at Kordell Stewart - he wasn't a prototypical NFL QB and had a long career!
  • Jameson LaMarca
    Great topic, Mike. Look, I'm a big football fan, both pro and college. I love what Tebow's done as a player and, based on your personal interactions and the flood of stories pouring out about his background, his strong Christian beliefs and positive attitude seem to be genuine (a rarity, given how the personal lives of athletes & celebs are PR-spun to death nowadays).

    With Saints/Colts providing such an amazing match up, I wouldn't be surprised if this year hits 100 million viewers (using Pats/Giants & Pitt/'Zona as indicators), so I understand why Tebow & his Family chose the Super Bowl for this ad. I respect their beliefs, I respect their right to say it, but I just feel it's the wrong forum for a day meant for taking your brain out, downing some good food/beer/soda, and spending time with friends and family, not pushing a heavily weighted religious/political issue.
  • mikeschaffer
    Awesome call - this match-up is VERY attractive! I think this spot has been in the works for a long time, though, but it still is a "perfect storm" scenario for the organization.

    Maybe they feel the spot will be effective BECAUSE nobody else is doing anything similar?
  • Serg
    I'm a huge fan of Tim Tebow (Go Gators!). Though I'm usually dubious of anyone who is extremely religious, I greatly respect his deep faith because of how unimposing he is about it. His faith is something personal to him. Unlike other Christians with a media platform, he never uses his religion to tell people why they are less than him, or why they are wrong, evil or hell-bound. AND unlike most Christians in the public, he actually DOES works of good faith and volunteerism. I have nothing but admiration and esteem for him.

    My problem is with the organization he has chosen to do this with. Focus on the Family is not a Christian organization that shares the loving Christian values of Tim and his family (who are wonderful people). They are known for bigotry disguised as Bible thumping. In this respect, I am disappointed in Tim.

    Lastly, if NOW or any other women's rights group purchased an ad during the SuperBowl to promote a woman's right to choose, Christians and the Right Wing would explode in the rage of a thousand stigmata. BOTH sides need to chill the fuck down, realize that people - regardless of how adamantly you disagree with them - have the right to free speech; and that includes Tim. Lord knows athletes have garnered media attention for significantly less important subject matter. He's a smart guy who feels passionately about this without being a judgmental prick about it. Let him say what he believes. I just wish he wasn't doing it alongside a bunch of judgmental pricks (focus on the family).

    Should it be said during the Super Bowl? Well, they paid for it, so what do I care. If you think your message is so "important" it should be punched out in 30 seconds between clips of women in bikini's selling beer, then that's your business. #classy
  • Fantastic comment. You basically laid out my thoughts exactly!
  • I agree - fantastic comment. Couldn't have said it better myself!! - Tara
  • mikeschaffer
    Tara/Ashley - very much appreciate the read and comment!
  • mikeschaffer
    Thanks for swinging on by, Serg! Terrific comment, with TONS of great points!

    This argument can be addressed with the old "First Amendment" rule - "Agree or disagree, I'll fight for their right to say it." As far as getting the ball rolling on buzz about their spot, they've done a pretty damn good job, no?
  • deandrad
    That was pretty well said, Serg!

    Tebow made it clear a long time ago what's important to him- his faith and his family. I don't think it will hurt him in the long run because like I always say...this too will pass.

    People watching the ad have a choice to agree or disagree...and move on.
  • AAZ
    I would argue (1) that political ads don't below at the SuperBowl and (2) that many Christians I know do not support their "values" so I wouldn't call them "Christian values" -- just anti-choice.
  • mikeschaffer
    Perhaps we are too quick to label certain values as "Christian?"
  • majastevanovich
    It is clear it will hurt his future endorsement deals, but from everything you read up on the topic it doesn't seem like he would be too concerned about that type of thing. How obsessed with being PC our nation is, it is a little shocking that the ad will be airing during the most watched television event.
  • mikeschaffer
    Money talks, especially during a down economy. If the company had the cash to spend, they can buy the ad time...only confusing thing to me is how do you justify that line-item?
  • jeffespo
    Mike - great piece and didn't know you were a member of team shorty like I am.

    My problem with this ad is the buzz that it is generating. It is a great story that ties into the Tebow belief system. For those saying oh he shouldn't do this, I would suggest checking out this clipped ESPN article ( it talks about his work with inmates. Whether you agree with his stance or not, he believes in it and is doing something with his family.

    For everyone talking about endorsement deals, please splash your face with cold water or get smacked by the person next to you. Yes the kid was great for the Gators, but don't let that confuse you with a translation to the NFL. The kid is falling all over himself at the Senior Bowl and scouts are generally calling him a system kid. Florida fans, before you get mad, remember the fun & gun - Travis Taylor anyone?

    He is not being projected as a first-day draft pick so any endorsement talks will have to wait until he gets a starting nod for a CFL team or if the 1-3 string QBs on his team get hurt in a bus accident.

    Now I am not bashing the kid and think to be honest it took a lot of balls to follow his convictions. So to that I say good for you buddy.

    Our society in general needs to get over celebrities and athletes being the end all be all. They are people just like you or me. They just happen to do something well enough to get rich as hell.
  • mikeschaffer
    Can we submit this to Bartlett's Quotes? "Our society in general needs to get over celebrities and athletes being the end all be all. They are people just like you or me. They just happen to do something well enough to get rich as hell."
  • jeffespo
    Of course you can sir.
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