A minor league baseball team has found itself apologizing over a controversy that swirled when the team systematically mocked former NFL star and current minor league baseball player Tim Tebow.
The Charleston RiverDogs, who played Tebow’s team, the Columbia Fireflies (the New York Mets’ Class A affiliate) on Friday night as part of a three-game series, engaged in a variety of activities seen by some critics as mocking Tebow’s well-known expressions of the Christian faith.
I've caught the Tebow fever. pic.twitter.com/l0UeNOqHQw
— Charlie T. RiverDog (@charlieriverdog) June 17, 2017
First, the team’s mascot, Charlie, sported eye black with “John 3:16” scrawled in white. As you might recall, this is something that Tebow himself did as a football player. The mascot also engaged in “Tebowing” — the term coined to describe how Tebow would often bend on one knee and pray on the football field.
But it didn’t end there. The team also played the “Hallelujah Chorus” every time Tebow came up to bat during the game, the Post and Courier reported.
Not everyone was pleased:
Whoever decided it was a good idea to make fun of Tim Tebow's religious beliefs at the Charleston RiverDogs game should be fired ASAP.
— JC Shurburtt (@jcshurburtt) June 21, 2017
When other batters from Tebow’s team came up, a photo of Tebow would reportedly emerge showing him crying after his college team lost the 2009 SEC Championship game, with the famous “John 3:16” scrawled under his eyes.
Text accompanying the image read, “Not Tim Tebow.”
— Daren Stoltzfus (@DarenStoltzfus) June 18, 2017
In the end, the RiverDogs dismissed these antics as simply good fun, though many in the public were less than impressed, leading Dave Echols, president and general manager for the team, to apologize to anyone who might have been offended.
“While we believe that our promotions were poking fun at Mr. Tebow’s celebrity status rather than his religion or baseball career, our intent was not to offend anyone, and for the fact that we did offend, we are sorry,” he said in a statement to the Post and Courier.
Echols continued, “Of the many promotional pieces that we executed, there were a handful on Friday’s game that some construed as in poor taste, and we made it a focus to remove those elements and celebrate Mr. Tebow the remainder of his time in Charleston.”
— Charlie T. RiverDog (@charlieriverdog) June 18, 2017
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson responded after the initial game series that the antics were “all very minor league.” He told Newsday that some of this type of mocking had unfolded even before Tebow even came into the league, but expressed some surprise.
“I was a little surprised that halfway through the season that somebody decided to be cute and pursue that,” Alderson said. “But he’s bigger than that.”
As for Tebow, he’s been quiet about the incident thus far.