Charleston baseball team mocks Tim Tebow’s faith during series, offending fans

Tim Tebow looks off at the baseball field from the dugout during the Fireflies' game.
Tim Tebow looks off at the baseball field from the dugout during the Fireflies' game. online@thestate.com

The minor league baseball team in Charleston is taking national heat for appearing to make fun of Tim Tebow’s strong Christian faith during a series of games over the weekend with the Columbia Fireflies.

Playing for the Fireflies, a Class A affiliate of the New York Mets, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback faced continual ridicule from the Charleston RiverDogs and team mascot Charlie T. RiverDog.

Among the most criticized religion-oriented antics: Charlie T. wore eye black with the former Florida Gator QB’s motivational “John 3:16” written on it, and the mascot knelt as if in prayer as a superhero in Gator colors leapt over him.

The RiverDogs also made fun of Tebow in general, including playing the infamous clip of him crying after the Gators loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.

A photo of the crying Tebow appeared on the Charleston stadium’s video screen behind the profile shot of each player who came up to bat, Charlotte sports talk radio station WFNZ reported Tuesday.

In an apparent mea culpa tweet, Charlie T. insisted he was kneeling in honor of Tebow.

“If you couldn’t tell already, I am a @TimTebow fan,” Charlie T. tweeted with the video of him kneeling as the superhero bounded above.

In tweeting a photo of himself with the “John 3:16” black liner, Charlie said, “I’ve caught the Tebow fever.”

But many Tebow fans contend Charlie T. was mocking Tebow’s strong Christian faith.

“So they are proud of showing disrespect and bullying,” tweeted Linda McCall. “This team may have won the game but they have lost much more. They are real losers!”

“Mocking someone’s religion is NOT being a fan,” a woman named Liz tweeted.

“As a long time Yankee fan I am ashamed of how Tebow was treated,” tweeted Matthew Deyo. “The management of this team should be ashamed as well. Not Yankee class!!”

Tweeted Jay Finnegan: “Classless.... guy brings in the 3 biggest crowds of your year - and you mock him relentlessly including his religion? Classless!”

WFNZ commentators debated on Tuesday whether Tebow, while at bat during one of the games, flung his bat toward second base in anger over the mocking or whether it had just slipped from his grip in the heat.

Regardless of how people interpreted Charlie T. and his team’s antics, this much is true: Tebow is a guaranteed draw wherever he goes.

The Hickory Crawdads sold out at least three of the four games against the Fireflies in late April. Columbia will be in Kannapolis to face the Intimidators July 22-25. Demand for tickets is high, and the team expects near-sellouts to sold-out games, a team spokesman said Tuesday

Similarly huge crowds turned out in Charleston.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak