UPDATED: 6:40 p.m. ET, May 20
Original story published May 11
The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed former NFL bust Tim Tebow to a contract, the professional football franchise announced on Thursday. The signing came as free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained blacklisted from the NFL despite being widely regarded as a better and more accomplished pro football player than Tebow.
The Jaguars’ announcement was accompanied by a statement from Tebow thanking the team and asking for “support as I embark on this new journey.”
Original story follows below:
The expected signing of a white former NFL player who hasn’t played pro football in nearly a decade and was widely regarded as a failure during his time in the league has renewed outrage sparked over the apparent refusal to give Colin Kaepernick a second chance on the gridiron.
Tim Tebow, who hasn’t competed in an NFL regular-season game since the 2012 season — four years longer than when Kaepernick last played — was reportedly going to sign a one-year contract with his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars to play tight end, a position he has never played before on any level of competition.
That report stood in stark contrast to the deafening silence surrounding Kaepernick and his return to the league, which is likely to never happen for political and not athletic reasons.
One critic referred to the entire scenario as “white privilege NFL style.”
Bossip brought attention NFL veteran Dez Bryant’s reaction of disbelief upon learning that Tebow could sign a new contract. Bryant, who is currently a free agent, “understands how hard it is to get on a team and stay on a team,” even with talent, Bossip wrote.
Stats be damned — the Heisman-winning quarterback whose success in college translated to him playing in a total of 35 regular-season games and one playoff game over the course of three seasons — Tebow is an icon in pop culture, notably because of his expressed Christian faith.
Mainstream media has long fawned over his physical features and celebrated him regardless of his professional failures, like the NFL and a brief, unsuccessful stint playing minor league baseball. Tebow has been rewarded for these failures time and time again, including starring in TV ads, a book deal to write his autobiography, being the subject of multiple documentaries, getting lucrative endorsement deals, appearing on a reality TV contest show and becoming a college football analyst for ESPN.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are likely betting on some of Tebow’s mass appeal to rub off on their fanbase and help stimulate sales of tickets, merchandise and probably much more.
Never mind that Kaepernick once led his team to the Superbowl while Tebow has played in just one playoff game.
The most notable contrast, though, between Tebow and Kaepernick their demonstrative kneeling. Tebow was celebrated for his kneeling, which became a cultural trend known as “Tebowing” as people mimicked the quarterback’s moment of prayer.
But when Kaepernick kneeled as a way to bring attention to the scourge of police violence against Black and brown people, he was sidelined as a player before being banished from the league as franchises colluded to keep him out of the NFL. There was no “Kaepernicking,” only the admonishment from the NFL against his silent protest for social justice.
It is in that context that Tebow could sign yet another NFL contract.
Just last year, reacting to a statement the NFL released after the murder of George Floyd, pro football stars demanded that league leadership explicitly say, “We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black lives matter.”
To date, the NFL maintains that Kaepernick was not blacklisted from the league. Analysts have said Kaepernick is just not good enough to return. But if Kaepernick isn’t good enough, and Kaepernick’s NFL statistics were far superior to Tebow’s — which they were — then why hasn’t Kaepernick also been the subject of a reported return?
It’s a question with an answer that is both elusive and obvious as the nation continues along with its purported racial reckoning.
This is America.