SAN DIEGO – March 11, 2012 – Long before Jeremy Lin shoved him out of the headlines, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was the biggest story in football and one of the most talked about athletes in American sports by the end of 2011.
Now he is back in the headlines, with speculation that he may be traded by the Denver Broncos if the team signs quarterback Peyton Manning.
An evangelical Christian who makes no secret of his faith in God and Jesus Christ, Tebow found a way to pull out improbable victories week after week on the football field, putting the Broncos in the playoffs and treating fans to some nail-biting games and wild come from behind wins.
Unlike some of his NFL teammates who are bad boys off the field as well as on it, Tebow is respectful, wholesome (even stating he is a virgin), and a role model.
Still, Tebow drew his share of critics who mocked his religious devotion, his habit of praying on the field on one knee which came to be known as “Tebowing,” his passing style and his too-good-to-possibly-be-true lifestyle, turning him into a “controversial” figure according to the news media.
Is America really so divided about Tim Tebow? Is public perception about Tebow driving in any way the rumored decision by Broncos to trade Tebow away?
Manning met with the Broncos brass including John Elway Friday, and is spending Sunday in Arizona meeting with the Cardinals. Manning is also reportedly planning to meet with the Miami Dolphins. Manning says he will make a decision this week.
The website ProFootballTalk.com reports that Tebow could end up with the Jacksonville Jaguars if Denver signs Manning. Tebow played high school and college football in Florida. While Manning is making the rounds, Tebow is making appearances in Florida this weekend raising money for wounded war veterans. He was originally planning to speak to the media, but he cancelled his media availability in Tampa.
Wherever Tebow plays next season, any NFL organization has to consider this: Is Tebow’s fame a net plus or a liability?
According to new research released by the national public opinion research firm Competitive Edge Research & Communication (CERC) in San Diego, America isn’t divided about Tim Tebow. Americans generally love Tebow. Any “controversy” is a media-fueled myth.
CERC President and founder John Nienstedt shared his recent national research on Tebow conducted during Super Bowl week with Communities at Washington Times. Tebow has the kind of popularity that President Obama or any of the Republican president candidates would kill for. More than half of all Americans hold favorable opinions of Tebow, one-third love him and only 8% are unhappy with the Broncos quarterback. Tebow is perhaps the ultimate feel-good story.
Nienstedt found that Tebow’s overt display of religion isn’t polarizing; it’s exactly what makes him wildly popular. “Tebow is so popular precisely because he’s so out there with his religion,” said Nienstedt. “Half of those with very favorable impressions of Tebow say they like him for his religious values and beliefs. One big factor for these staunch Tebow fans is the belief that he demonstrates courage.” A 73 year old North Carolina woman said she likes Tebow because: “I appreciate that he’s willing to confess the Lord, in front of everybody; and he’s not ashamed to be a Christian.” This sentiment is not atypical.
Nienstedt says the attraction is created because Tebow is different. “He obviously resonates with many Christians, but even non-religious people appreciate his good character. His athletic ability is second.”
Who are Tebow’s few naysayers? The one segment of the population not all that enthused about Tebow is his own age group peers, young adults in their 20s. Tebow turns 25 this August. Nienstedt’s national survey shows that 24 and 25 year-olds are not down with Tebow-mania. While 22% of 24 and 25 year-olds express positive feelings toward Tebow, only 7% view him very favorably.
Football fans in general think he’s swell. According to Nienstedt, 61% of those who watched Super Bowl 46 view Tim Tebow positively and 35% have very favorable impressions of Tebow. Americans who don’t watch football don’t have much opinion either way. His image may be bigger than football, but football is what drives Tebow’s notoriety.
Now that football is off-season, New York Knicks phenomenon Jeremy Lin has been hogging the headlines. Lin and Tebow have apparently had several telephone conversations in the past few weeks. The two share their devout Christian faith. What should Lin learn from Tebow’s experience? Nienstedt says his survey shows Lin should let it all hang out when it comes to his faith.
“We shouldn’t need a survey to validate that it’s OK to be open about your religion. But Tebow is showing us that you can be a forthright Christian, unafraid, and it’s a net positive,” said Nienstedt.
This net positive can belong to whatever team he ends up playing for in 2012, and the NFL franchise who has Tebow on board should bear this in mind. There have been far too many NFL teams willing to tolerate bad behavior off the field. Tebow is respected and admired as a person first, an athlete second. This can do nothing but good for the sport of professional football.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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