Tim Tebow: I’m Christian.
Media: Keep it to yourself!
Jason Collins: I’m gay.
Media: This man’s a hero!
Oh, the self-pity, the false equivalency!
Both men became free agents in their respective sports recently, both making news, but that's about where the similarity in their situations begin and end.
Yet Tebow's fans seem all bent out of shape that their man—long known as a Christian—didn't get the kinds of love Collins provoked by revealing his homosexuality.
Can we just review?
Tebow is part of an American majority: A straight Christian male.
Collins is part of several American and global minorities: An African-American gay male.
Tebow has all the rights of our Constitution – including the right to marry, to have his children instantly recognized as his, to attend the church of his choice, to be as proudly heterosexual as he’d like – that is, publicly holding hands, kissing, etc. There is a complete, undisputed right to religious freedom in this country. There is a complete undisputed right to heterosexuality in this country. Tebow can’t be denied housing, employment, or any other right simply for being a Christian or heterosexual.
In other words, proclaiming his Christianity or his virginal heterosexuality does not in any way involve stakes for Tebow. There is no risk in being a straight Christian.
But that’s not the case for Collins in, say, in Jacksonville, Florida, where Tebow grew up. In fact, in Jacksonville, the City Council specifically rejected adding protections for LGBT people less than a year ago – refusing to amend the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, a bill that already protects residents based on race, color, sex, marital status, national origin, age, disability or religion.
The folks who led the charge in Jacksonville? Christian folk like Tebow, who take their rights so for granted they can lead their lives without ever worrying if they can put their partner on their health insurance, if they’ll still have that health insurance if their bosses find out who their partner is, or if they’ll get asked to leave a restaurant for reaching across the dinner table to hold hands with their mate.
Christian folk who apparently fail to notice Jesus said nada about homosexuality and prefer to cherry pick their way through the Old Testament for their condemnations.
Give me a break!
And while I have no idea what Tebow thinks of his hometown’s ordinance, I know he gave a speech at Liberty University this year, the school founded by Jerry Falwell, which explicitly prohibits the enrollment of openly gay students.
(Is there a single queer institution that bans Christians? If there is, I don’t know about it.)
From the comparisons being made between Collins – the very first ever gay male athlete in a major league sport to come out – we might think Tebow was also breaking some kind of grounds as an out and proud Christian player.
But let’s not forget Kurt Warner, who lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl while wearing Jesus on his sleeve. Or former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who used to pray on the sidelines. Or former Seattle Seahawk Shaun Alexander. Or Indianapolis Colts kicker Hunter Smith. Or Atlanta Falcons kicker Jason Elam, who wrote a Christian-based novel called “Monday Night Jihad.” And those are just the football players.
What drives people nuts about Tebow is not that he's Christian but the constant Christian-in-your-face gestures – the kneeling, the scripture written on his cheeks, the anti-abortion Super Bowl ad.
Say what you will about Collins, up until this point, his sexuality has been completely inobtrusive. If he suddenly starts grabbing his crotch, writing Gertrude Stein verses on his face, or appearing in smoochy pro-gay Super Bowl ads, he could wear his welcome out as quickly as Tebow.
The reason Collins is getting the pats on the back now, the presidential call and the media high fives is because what he did still involves risks – he has given up a life of presumed heterosexuality, with all its attendant privileges, to accept the life of an openly gay man, with all its joys and limitations.
Sure, he could play blissfully protected in New York or Boston, but — now that he’s out of the closet — what about Memphis? Or Atlanta? The Orlando Magic could, for all intents and purposes, point to Florida’s anti-sodomy law (technically unenforceable but still on the books) and say, Hey, we don’t want to hire somebody who’s gonna come in and break the law.
People may not like Tebow – just like they may not like Collins – but Tebow is never, ever, going to experience anything even close to that.