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Commentary: Tim Tebow chooses the altar of political correctness

Posted 7:55am on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

The first 10 minutes of Dr. Robert Jeffress' sermon during the 10:50 a.m. service at First Baptist Church in Dallas was dedicated to the week's events. While he never actually said Tim Tebow's name, there was simply no need to say "New York Jets" or anything of the like.

There was not a soul inside this packed 150-year-old church, or the adjacent sanctuary, who was unaware of what Jeffress was referring to when he spoke of Tebow's recent decision to cancel his scheduled appearance at the megachurch next month.

"It's not about me," Jeffress told the congregation.

Well, yes, it is. I attended Sunday's service to see what this was all about. What I found was just another church, not unlike any other, if only a little bigger. Lots of nice people trying to do the right thing. The guy who played the sax was great. The sermon was a "Money Sunday" service that every church has to have when it needs some coin.

What separates this church right now is that its leader was savvy enough to schedule Tebow, and then smart enough to cash in when the latter checked out. There are hundreds of thousands who now know who Jeffress is as a result of this story, and he can easily spin negative media fallout to his congregation, which he did.

"I never realized I was such a bad person," Jeffress said of the massive media attention he has received over the past two weeks. "I'm thinking of getting a part-time job as a sports commentator."

He did take Tebow to task for what is an obvious bow to public pressure to stay away from a man who has made inflammatory statements about Catholics, gays and President Barack Obama, for a start. Whatever you think of Jeffress, he is not changing his rhetoric.

He took a direct shot when he said he wants people "willing to stand up and act like men rather than [cower] when it gets controversial." He said he is "not going to kneel at the altar of political correctness."

Regardless if you agree with Jeffress, this whole story has a sad element: It's the clearest sign that the era of the activist athlete is officially over. The job is too hard, the headaches too many and the financial risk too great.

You know it's bad when a professed Christian such as Tebow doesn't feel comfortable at a Baptist church in Dallas.

We don't know if Tebow shares the same views as Jeffress. What we know is that Tebow thinks merely sharing the same stage is certain PR death.

There used to be a place in sports for an athlete to stand for something, but the price these days has obviously become too great. The scrutiny and the cinematic hate backlash are too harsh. Stating an opinion, unless it is absurdly populist, has become a giant pain.

You wonder how long a Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, Branch Rickey or John Carlos could have endured in today's sports climate.

When Jeffress was finished speaking about the week's events, he received a standing ovation from the congregation.

"Don't do that to me," he told them.

After the service, I waited in line to introduce myself to Jeffress. He was pleasant and professional, and because of the past two weeks I know who he is, and attended his church.

In the end, it seems that both Jeffress and Tebow acted in their own best interests.

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