Tim Tebow Takes a Knee, Cancels Appearance at Controversial Megachurch Celebration

After the New York Daily News accused Jets quarterback Tim Tebow of having a “hate date” with Robert Jeffress, the outspoken leader of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, Tebow called Jeffress at home this week to let him know he’d be cancelling his scheduled appearance at First Baptist on April 28, a scheduled celebration of the 11,000-member church’s new $115 million home.

In a series of tweets, Tebow told his public that he cancelled because he wanted to keep it positive: “I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope, and Love to all those needing a brighter day!”

But after talking to Jeffress—an outspoken antagonist of Mormons, Muslims, and homosexuals—the Daily Beast came away with the story that Tebow’s handlers might have urged him to cancel because Jeffress was bad for business.

Those who have followed Jeffress’ media habits will not be surprised to find he’s making the most of the moment, dishing up interviews and grabbing airtime with just about anyone who will listen.

But can the example of Tim Tebow, who is a member of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, speak louder than the voice of Robert Jeffress?  

Could Tebow convince the Southern Baptist Convention that anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon talk and action is generally bad for business? How would Tim Tebow rebrand the SBC?

Can pop culture, celebrity, and publicity turn a tradition around?

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Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.