GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) — Two New York athletes have been suspended by school administrators for organizing several "kneel-downs" in tribute to NFL sensation Tim Tebow, who said Friday that while he appreciates their boldness, the students have to obey their elders.
"I think if they had good intentions, then good for them for having the courage to do something different," the Denver Broncos quarterback said when told of the suspensions this week on New York's Long Island.
The devout Christian, who has led his team to a 7-1 record, often kneels in prayer after a success on the gridiron.
He added: "You have to respect the position of authority and people that God's put as authority over you, so that's part of it, and just finding the right place and the right time to do things is part of it, too."
Riverhead High School administrators suspended 17-year-old twins Connor and Tyler Carroll this week after they organized several "Tebowing" tributes to the NFL star in their school hallway.
Connor Carroll said in a telephone interview on Friday afternoon that he and his friends — nearly 40 took part in the last of three demonstrations on Wednesday — merely wanted to pay tribute to Tebow as a "role model, leader and winner."
He conceded that although kneeling for Tebow has a religious connotation, their intent was simply to honor a sports hero.
Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney said in a statement that the students' actions created a potential safety hazard.
"I think it's wonderful that our students look up to sports heroes such as Mr. Tebow, but we can't allow students to create unsafe situations in school," Carney said in a statement. "Students cannot block hallways and prevent other students from getting to class."
She said the Carroll brothers, who play on the Riverhead football and baseball teams, were disciplined because of prior warnings about disruptions in the hallway. Connor Carroll said that he and his brother and others had been creating "human walls" in the hallways about six weeks ago and conceded they were told to stop, but argued that the "Tebowing" tribute was different.
School administrators did not see it that way.
"Two students who were spoken to previously did not heed to the warning given by administrators, and they were disciplined accordingly," Carney said.
She added: "We hope that these students and all of our students continue to look up to the positive role models in public life; we just encourage them to do it in a responsible way."
Tebow learned of the suspensions Friday when told of it by an AP reporter.
"I don't know the whole context, but I guess if they were told not to, then obviously you have to respect them and wait until you get off property because you have to respect people who are in charge of you and obey the rules."
The Tebow tempest has garnered the Carroll brothers unexpected attention, Connor Carroll said, noting he was interviewed live on ESPN's SportsCenter on Thursday night.
"I really can't believe all this," he said.
Connor served his suspension on Friday, sitting in a tiny room doing his schoolwork, he said. Tyler's in-school suspension will be served Monday.
When he got bored, Connor Carroll says, he ranked all the top professional sports teams and players as a mental exercise.
Where did he rank Tebow?
"He was in the Top 15," he said.
Associated Press Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.