The general manager of the Charleston RiverDogs apologized after the minor league baseball team jokingly mocked Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow’s Christian faith during a three-game series last week.
Dave Echols told the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, that his team received staunch criticism — both on social media and during the game — for making fun of Tebow, the former NFL quarterback whose celebrity helped the RiverDogs sell out all three games of the series, during last Friday’s game.
— Daren Stoltzfus (@DarenStoltzfus) June 18, 2017
“While we believe that our promotions were poking fun at Mr. Tebow’s celebrity status rather than his religion or baseball career,” Echols said, “our intent was not to offend anyone, and for the fact that we did offend, we are sorry.”
In an effort to “poke fun” at Tebow, the RiverDogs played the “Hallelujah Chorus” every time the former NFL star was up to bat. And the RiverDogs’ mascot wore eye black featuring the John 3:16 Bible reference, just as Tebow famously did when he played for the Florida Gators.
At one point, the Charleston team’s mascot even got down on one knee to pray — “Tebowing” — just like Tebow would during many of his NFL and college football games. The RiverDogs also displayed the text “Not Tim Tebow” on the giant video screen every time a Fireflies batter stepped up to the plate. And behind the photo of each player, the RiverDogs projected a photo of Tebow crying after the Gators lost to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship game.
The announcer was in on the joke, too. According to the Post and Courier, he encouraged the audience to applaud whenever a strike was called against Tebow.
I've caught the Tebow fever. https://t.co/l0UeNOqHQw— Charlie T. RiverDog (@Charlie T. RiverDog)1497737125.0
“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,” Echols said.
When Fireflies fans, who did not see the jokes about Tebow, heard about the RiverDogs’ antics, most thought it was just good-natured fun. They did, however, say they appreciated Echols’ apology to anyone who might have been offended.
“I would think in a town with so many churches that the organization would have better responsibility than to do that,” Matt Dillon of Lexington told the Post and Courier. “It wouldn’t bother me. They could play ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ when I come to the plate.”
Another fan, Joe Vernau, said he didn’t think Tebow would be offended by the RiverDogs’ jokes.
“I think he’s a good person,” Vernau said. “He might laugh about it.”
But not everyone took the jokes that well.
J.C. Shurburtt, an ESPN radio host, said whoever came up with the idea to make fun of Tebow’s faith during last week’s game “should be fired ASAP.”
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 (@JC Shurburtt)1498070929.0
And Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told Newsday that the RiverDogs’ behavior was “all very minor league.”
“I was a little surprised that halfway through the season that somebody decided to be cute and pursue that,” he said. “But [Tebow’s] bigger than that.”