Media Lions Roar at Christian Athletes

From Tebow to Lolo, sports stars are penalized for not playing the secular game.

Media Research CenterDuring the first centuries of Christianity, Christians were thrown to lions in arenas to be jeered by mocking crowds. Today, Christian athletes face the taunts of a media strongly opposed to their faith.

No Christian athlete draws more media catcalls than New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. writer Dan Bernstein dismissed Tebow as “little more than an affable simpleton” and slammed his fans as “lunatic-fringe cultists.” Columnist Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of The Jewish Week expressed his desire that Tebow’s Broncos would lose a playoff game because a Broncos victory would “buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.” Radio host Craig Carton was the latest to jump on the anti-Tebow bandwagon, calling him a “fraud” and complaining that he “clearly thinks he is Jesus” on his August 14 radio show.

There are a variety of “NFL Police Blotters” on the Internet, and the league has seen 35 of its players arrested since Jan. 1, on charges ranging from DUI to drug possession to assault. The football media reserve their outrage for Tebow.

Other Christian athletes have experienced similar media disapproval. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams slammed Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas for being “so, so, so into Jesus.” New York Times writer Jere Longman slammed Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones as a fraud (and a Tebow fan) even before she competed: “Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be – vixen, virgin, victim” and mocked her faith: “She has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.”

Other Christian athletes have faced intense media criticism for their opposition to gay marriage. Soros-funded outlet Think Progress falsely accused Catholic boxer Manny Pacquiao of advocating the death of homosexuals. ESPN went on a crusade against Nebraska college football coach Ron Brown for his faith-based opposition to a “gay and transgender anti-discrimination law.” One writer even called for Brown’s firing: “if he continues to confuse faith with a person's fundamental right not to be discriminated against.”

Publicly expressed Christianity is not for the faint of heart in the sports world.


Tebow Derangement Syndrome

Many people respect outspoken Christian Tim Tebow for his work ethic on the field and exemplary lifestyle off the field. In June 2012, he was honored by NFL writers with the 2012 Good Guy Award for “his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs.”

But Tebow’s public Christian lifestyle has put him in the crosshairs of sportswriters who loathe his devotion to his faith. In March 2011, sportswriter Dan Bernstein hammered the quarterback as “little more than an affable simpleton.” Craig Carton was the latest to blast Tebow, declaring on his August 14 radio show that Tebow was a “fraud:” “When you see a guy, who clearly thinks he is Jesus, legs crossed, arms out, like he’s on the freaking cross, and he’s got tight junk pants on showing off his big junk with no shirt on – and he’s posing as Sexy Jesus, he is a fraud.”

Carton’s anger at Tebow’s supposed hypocrisy was sparked by men’s magazine GQ reusing an old picture of Tebow from his college days, showing him stretching his arms in a cross shape. GQ altered the photo without Tebow’s knowledge to make it appear as if Tebow was wearing Jets garb; in fact, Tebow didn’t even know about GQ’s plans to put him on the cover. Nevertheless, the photo instantly sparked controversy.

Tebow’s personal life has drawn bizarre scrutiny and mockery. Infidelity website Ashley Madison offered a $1 million bounty to anyone who could prove she (or he) had sex with the self-declared virgin quarterback. Ashley Madison founder Noel Biederman declared: “I guarantee that no man of Tebow's stature could survive a season in New York without succumbing to the temptations of the city.” Rolling Stone comedian Artie Lange mocked Tebow’s virginity by composing a parody of the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow,” including the vulgar lyrics: “if there’s a quarterback you want to f***, call Andrew Luck, but not Tim Tebow.”

Hostile writers have also gone after Tebow’s supporters. Bernstein labeled Tebow’s fans “lunatic-fringe cultists” and “batspit crazy fanatics.” Columnist Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of “The Jewish Week” outrageously warned that a Tebow victory in the 2012 Broncos-Patriots football game could spark riots in the streets: “If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.”

On the field, Tim Tebow is an unconventional NFL quarterback – he’s a mediocre passer who’s more comfortable running the ball in a league that values the pass and doesn’t like expensive, marquee quarterbacks exposing themselves to injury by running. There are legitimate critiques of Tebow’s skills and style of play.

But back in Oct. 2011, ‘Inside the NFL’ analyst Cris Collinsworth noted that much of the criticism directed at Tebow had more to do with his faith than his completion percentage.


Media Censorship of Christians

Attacks on Tim Tebow go hand in hand with the sports media’s and sports leagues’ pattern of censoring Christian statements and symbolism. Writers, sports networks, and leagues want Christians to keep their faith in the closet – and attack those who refuse to do so. In 2009, Brazilian soccer player Kaka and several of his teammates were forced by FIFA (the international governing body of soccer) to stop wearing T-shirts with Christian slogans.

Even gold medal-winning Olympic athletes were not spared media criticism for being too Christian. Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams bashed 16-year old gymnast and Olympic medalist Gabby Douglas for her outspoken Christian faith. In an August 3 article snidely titled “Did God help Gabrielle Douglas win?,” Williams approvingly quoted one of her colleagues: “I would like her more if she were not so, so, so into Jesus.” (Williams herself might like Douglas more if she starred in gender-bending soft-core porn car ads.)

New York Times writer Jere Longman hammered Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones as a hypocrite in a nasty August 4 article titled “For Lolo Jones, Everything is Image.” Longman sneered: “Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.”

Jones’ real crime, however, was not behaving according to the stereotypes New York Times writers have about Christians. “In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon. At the same time, she has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.” Horror!

ESPN is especially vigilant about keeping its image unsoiled by Christian messages. NASCAR driver Blake Koch participated in an ESPN-sponsored ad for “Rise Up and Register,” a non-partisan group “dedicated to registering over 1 million new voters this year.” But since linked to Koch’s website (which linked to Christian ministries) and Be My Vote (a voting campaign designed to encourage pro-life individuals to register to vote), ESPN decided to pull the ad.  

The latest barrage of attacks on the faith of Christian athletes is a continuation of the unfiltered disgust for Christianity evident among the sports media.


Christian Opposes Gay Marriage? Destroy Him!

The sports media are avid fans of “gay rights,” and are relentlessly intolerant of any Christian athlete or sports personality who objects to a redefinition of marriage.

The left’s war on Christian restaurant Chick-fil-A has extended even into the sports world. The media screamed when Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, against redefining marriage: “I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’” The controversy died down, but the fact that Chick-fil-A sponsored two college bowl games drew the ire of editor Cyd Ziegler, who complained that athletes were “forced” to wear the Chick-fil-A logo, which he called a symbol of “oppression, inequality, and legalized discrimination.”

Individual Christian athletes opposed to gay marriage have been similarly slammed by the media. Catholic boxer Manny Pacquiao took a media beating for expressing his opposition to gay marriage. Soros-funded outlet Think Progress falsely attributed a quote to Pacquiao and claimed that he advocated the death of individuals committing homosexual acts, and demanded that Nike drop Pacquiao as a sponsor. A host of media outlets amplified Think Progress’s rant. ESPN’s Grantland (a site combining sports analysis with pop-culture) published a lesbian blogger’s rant against Pacquiao.

Former New York Giants football player David Tyree was also slammed for opposing legislation to legalize gay marriage in New York. CNN’s Kyra Phillips hammered away at Tyree in a hostile interview, uncritically citing a study from the Williams Institute (a pro-gay think tank) to prove that “women and women come together and raise a family as well and a man and a man come together and raise a family as well.” When Tyree said that he respected this opinion, Phillips doubled down: "Oh, no, I'm not expressing my views. I'm just stating a fact."

College football coach Ron Brown was hammered by secular and sports outlets for publicly opposing a “gay and transgender anti-discrimination law.” dialed up a blitz of hit pieces against Brown; columnist Gene Wojciechowski even called for Brown’s firing: “if he continues to confuse faith with a person's fundamental right not to be discriminated against, then Perlman and Osborne should fire him.”

Brown, Pacquiao, and Tyree did not once express hatred for gay people; indeed, Brown and Pacquiao explicitly made clear their love for individual homosexuals. The athletes simply stated that made clear that they believed that homosexual marriage went against their Christian faith and destructive to society.

But only overt support for gay marriage suffices to pacify the media.


Supporting Enforced Co-ed Sports

A couple of sportswriters sought to induce equality in other areas, turning their guns on Christians who refused to participate in co-ed sports.

Grantland’s Charles Pierce viciously attacked a traditionalist Catholic baseball team for refusing to play another baseball team that had a girl on the team. Pierce even took the opportunity to blast St. Paul, ranting: “Completely by accident, Paige and her teammates had found themselves caught in a dark, dank corner of reactionary Christianity, which admits no light, no warmth, only the cold, dead past, and which stinks of prejudice, decaying dogma, and the worst social offal of the 20th century.”

Pierce failed to mention that the school in question noted in a public statement that “the decision [to forfeit] is pursuant to school policy which rules out participation in co-ed sports.”

Pierce’s hissy fit was not the first time that an ESPN writer complained about faith and co-ed sports. ESPN’s Rick Reilly slammed a high school boy who refused to wrestle with a girl in 2011. In Feb. 2011, wrestler Joel Northrup refused to wrestle a girl in the Iowa state wrestling tournament, declaring in a statement: "As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."

Reilly refused to accept Northrup’s explanation, snarling: “Body slams and takedowns and gouges in the eye and elbows in the ribs are exactly how to respect Cassy Herkelman. This is what she lives for. She can elevate herself, thanks.”


Left Field

 It’s often overlooked that the sports media have every bit the left-wing bias as “hard news” organizations. After all, the unhinged former MSNBC (and former CurrentTV) host Keith Olbermann got his start on ESPN. Since most sports reporting and anlysis doesn’t lend itself to political opining, sports journalists don’t have much change to strut their ideological stuff. One exception is the intersection of sports and religion. From their militantly secular perspective, the two should never, ever connect.