Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trademarking Religious Expression?

New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow is a controversial figure in the National Football League. This is not due to his ability on the field, as Tebow is a decent but not amazing player. Rather, it is because of his highly public Christian beliefs. While most football players are Christian, just like most Americans, Tewbow is incredibly over-the-top about it. Last season with the Denver Broncos he took to kneeling down and praying after successful plays, which sports commentators began describing as "Tebowing." Debate raged over whether Tebow was merely an especially devout Christian or in fact a grandstanding narcissist, and now Tebow himself appears to have answered that question - by trying to trademark his own name as a term for prayer.

A management and consulting firm representing New York Jets back-up quarterback and evangelical sports icon Tim Tebow has moved one step closer to holding the trademark "Tebowing" for use on things as widespread as clothing, pencil sharpeners and holiday ornaments.

Tebow has long been very public about his Christian faith. In college, he sported Bible verses on his eye black, which the NCAA went on to ban after his graduation. Tebow invoked God frequently at news conferences and wrote at length about his faith and growing up the son of evangelical missionaries the Philippines in an autobiography.

"Tebowing" became part of the American lexicon when Tebow, then a second year player for the Denver Broncos, was photographed bowing in prayer in the end zone on one knee, helmeted head bowed a top a clenched fist. It quickly became an Internet meme.

"Grandstanding narcissist" seems about right in this situation. To be clear, the point of trademarking anything is so that someone who uses it will owe you money. The law already stipulates that public figures have substantial control of their images and names, so the idea that this is simply be a move to protect Tebow's likeness makes little sense. Fortunately prayer could never be trademarked in a meaningful way, as it has been practiced for thousands of years, but the sheer presumption that anyone would try to stake a claim on it as their own is pretty unbelievable.

I don't think there's much confusion in Christianity about Jesus' attitude toward moneylenders in the temple, and for that matter, maybe this is exactly the sort of thing Jesus was trying to warn us about in Matthew 6:5. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." Apparently, Tebow thinks his reward should come in form of royalty checks.

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Imago said...

You oughta trademark Drunken Werewolf!

Scott Stenwick said...

There you go! I swear, that post practically gets more hits than the rest of my blog put together (it doesn't, but it has more than twice as many as the next most popular post).

I suppose there are just a lot of folks out there searching for werewolf lore. And, of course, drunken lore. My guess is that the two go together much more than most people realize.