(NEW YORK) — Four Long Island high school seniors learned the hard way that “Tebowing” can get you into trouble.
Even as the fast-growing trend of striking a pose in tribute to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his pious post-touchdown reflections reaches epidemic proportions, Riverhead High School handed down one-day suspensions Wednesday to four students. Twin brothers Connor and Tyler Carroll and their classmates Wayne Drexel and Jordan Fulcoly (three of whom play football) were orchestrating a hallway-blocking Tebowing session about 40 students strong. The school’s administration told ABC News that the demonstration presented a safety hazard.
“They knelt down in the hallway in between periods and made it impossible to pass,” said Principal David Wicks. “They were causing a situation that could have been unsafe. God forbid there was an accident or a fire alarm.”
Well-aware of the seemingly contagious craze in which his students were participating, Wicks insisted that his decision was intended only to discipline.
“These students had been given prior warning about similar incidents,” he said. “This was not anti-Tebow, or anti-Christian.”
At least one student believes the suspensions were a heavy-handed response to a harmless prank.
“We had no idea that we could get suspended for such a thing,” Connor Carroll told Prep Rally, a Yahoo! Sports Blog. “It was a joke between a group of friends that took a life of its own. We figured, at the most, we would just be told to stop.”
Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, earned himself doubters and devotees alike for his overt displays of religious faith on the playing field at the University of Florida. But after he led a few miraculous comebacks on the NFL stage, Tebow has inspired a legion of copycats.
Jared Kleinstein, 24, was perhaps the first. Having grown up in Denver, Jared watched at a bar in New York City as his beloved Broncos fell behind the Miami Dolphins in Tebow’s first start of the season on Oct. 23. Down 15-0 with five minutes left to play, the quarterback took charge and led his team to an 18-15 overtime win. While everyone else celebrated around him, Kleinstein noticed Tebow knelt down in quiet prayer.
So Kleinstein ran outside, mimicked the pose, got a picture taken, and posted it on Facebook, receiving a few “likes” the following day.
“I thought, ‘What if I could make a blog of me and my friends doing this around the world?’” he said.
He searched “Tebowing” online and discovered that no one had yet claimed the domain name. Kleinstein launched Tebowing.com on a Tuesday. By Friday, his new venture had 350,000 unique visitors; today, nearly two months later, it’s had over 1.5 million, becoming an international hub of Tebowing enthusiasm.
“I always thought I would come up with a business plan one day,” Kleinstein said. “That’s the American Dream. But I never thought I would come up with a word. I’m lucky. Something I created will be in the dictionary.”
Kleinstein says that the subtlety in Tebow’s gesture is what inspires him, so the trend should be more about an internal experience.
“When we created it, it wasn’t meant to be disruptive,” he said, “but kids will be kids.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Max Blau, Steve Almasy and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Jason Hanna, CNN
Brian Stelter, CNN