It looks as if Tim Tebow will be making an annual ritual of speaking at a Dallas-area church every spring.
Last year, it was at the Celebration Church, where his Easter Sunday appearance drew up to 20,000 followers. Roughly a week after that gig was announced, Tebow, who had previously led the Denver Broncos to a miracle playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers – but would be vanquished by the New England Patriots the following week – was traded to the New York Jets, where he would spend most of the 2012 season on the bench.
Now, after the start of the 2013 Lenten season – in which Tebow could again be traded, perhaps to the Jacksonville Jaguars – the First Baptist Church in Dallas has announced that the nomad first-cum-second-string quarterback will be appearing at their house of worship on Sunday, April 28, a mere four weeks after Easter.
As you would expect, the usual news sources reported this – including NBC Sports, though not by way of their “Pro Football Talk” unit (at least, not yet). No, there was an item about Tebow’s appearance at First Baptist Church posted on the section of NBC Sports’ website dubbed “Off The Bench,” a collection of odd and weird sports stories usually written by Rick Chandler.
“It seems that lately Tim Tebow has been making more speaking appearances in church than he has quarterback appearances in NFL games,” starts Chandler’s piece, which was originally titled, “Tim Tebow to speak at virulently anti-gay, anti-Semitic Dallas megachurch,” and also referred to the church’s lead pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, as “a virulently anti-gay and anti-Semitic evangelical Christian.”
Chandler’s item went on to cite examples of the pastor’s being “anti-gay” and “anti-Semitic,” quoting a passage from a Huffington Post item, which itself cited stories about Jeffress from the ThinkProgress website, as well as The Christian Post. “Is Tebow’s appearance at First Baptist Church an ipso facto endorsement of Jeffress’ views?,” Chandler questioned, before writing his belief that Tebow likely “saw the word ‘megachurch’ and got excited about speaking to a lot of like-minded people, and just forgot to do his due diligence on the guy in charge.”
Since that piece was published, Jeffress went after its author and his employer for failing to due its due diligence on him.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the pastor told Fox News, denouncing Chandler’s depiction of the church as “anti-gay” and “anti-Semitic” in his post. “We are a very pro-Israel church. To say that Jesus Christ is the only way for a person to be saved is not anti-Semitic.
“I would like NBC Sports to acknowledge that they made an error in their reporting and relied on secondary sources instead of doing their own reporting and fact-finding like any credible news organization ought to,” Jeffress added.
Since then, Chandler has updated his description of Jeffress as “a controversial evangelical Christian who has made quite a name for himself by referring to other religions as ‘heretical’, and that re-electing Obama would lead to the ‘rise of the anti-Christ’.” Also, while the title of the item was updated to refer only to a “controversial Dallas megachurch,” the references to “anti-gay” and “anti-Semitic” remain in the post’s URL.
Meanwhile, both the “anti-gay” and “anti-Semitic” labels given to Jeffress remain on the Huffington Post item that Chandler originally cited as the source for his story – and continues to be linked in Chandler’s post.
“This is another example of gross inaccuracies supported by the liberal press with no resemblance to truth whatsoever,” the pastor complained. “This is part of not just a liberal agenda, but sloppy journalism.”
Jeffress also suspects that it’s part of a vast “Jet-wing” conspiracy.
“This is another way to try to attack [Tim Tebow] for his Christian beliefs,” Jeffress contended. “Most discerning people realize this was an ambush, not of us so much, but of Tim Tebow and the beliefs we hold dear.
“I think the long knives have been out for Tim for some time.”
Earlier this week, Chandler also authored an item about “sports-related Twitter reaction” to the resignation of Pope Benedict, which was titled, “Pope Tebow I?”
Also, just hours before his Tebow/First Baptist Church item, Chandler penned a post about the Minnesota Twins’ single-A franchise, the Fort Myers Miracle, announcing a “Marco Rubio Water Bottle Giveaway” promotion, tying in a moment from the Florida Governor’s Republican response to President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, in which he quickly reached for and sipped from a water bottle at one point.
Concludes Chandler’s piece: “May I also suggest a dunking booth?”
Rick Chandler. A pawn of the liberal media? Nah.
UPDATE, 2.21.13: Tebow has canceled his scheduled appearance at First Baptist Church. No word if they’re negotiating with Greg McElroy to give the sermon at the April 28th mass.