Super Bowl Sunday was once considered a holy day in this country, purely a celebration of football, funny commercials and obscenely huge piles of chicken wings. You certainly never let hot-button politics pervade the sanctity of the gridiron.
CBS, however, is now directly involved with an unprecedented politicization of the game.
The network recently decided to air an anti-abortion commercial from the evangelical political organization Focus on the Family during this Sundayâ€™s broadcast. The ad will reportedly feature Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother discussing how her â€œpersonal faithâ€ convinced her to carry her son to term while she and her husband were missionaries in the Philippines, despite medical advice to terminate the pregnancy.
By accepting the ad, CBS reversed its long-standing policy against running any ad that â€œtouches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issueâ€ on the network, particularly during sporting events. In 2004, they famously rejected a commercial from the United Church of Christ, citing this policy.
The UCC adâ€™s â€œcontroversialâ€ tagline was â€œJesus didnâ€™t turn people away. Neither do we,â€ a sentiment, last I heard, supported by every Gospel of the New Testament.
The reported tagline of the Focus on the Family ad is â€œCelebrate family, celebrate life,â€ which is a coded, divisive rallying cry of the rabid anti-choice movement.
In the face of criticism from the UCC, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and a coalition of womenâ€™s groups, CBS has been dismissive in its responses. Several statements have tried to explain that this decision somehow reflects a more modern, forward-thinking approach toward advocacy ads from CBS.
Given the state of todayâ€™s economy and abortionâ€™s status as the single-most polarizing social issue in American politics, itâ€™s naÃ¯ve of the network to expect anyone to believe that. It clearly comes down to the $2.7 million CBS gets paid to run each 30-second Super Bowl ad. Yet, not even that explains the newest wrinkle in this controversy.
On Friday, CBS rejected a silly commercial from the gay dating site ManCrunch.com, which features two men who suddenly start making out while celebrating a touchdown on TV. The stupid GoDaddy.com commercials with Danica Patrick are more inappropriate in terms of sexual content, yet theyâ€™ll surely continue their run during Super Bowls.
ManCrunch.com will no doubt benefit from this attention, but this contradiction of business ethics is troubling nonetheless. CBS seems willing to alienate and offend people for sake of their bottom line, but only certain groups.
CBS is apparently OK with irritating the pro-choice community, but they are unwilling to let the homophobic Religious Right see two men kiss.
Focus on the Family may even be leading CBS into even hotter water. Prominent attorney Gloria Allred has questioned Mrs. Tebowâ€™s claim that Filipino doctors advised her to terminate her pregnancy.
Abortion has been illegal in the Philippines since 1930 and is punishable by six-year prison sentences for both the doctor and the mother. Given this, it doesnâ€™t make sense that doctors would have actually advised an abortion, so Allred has announced that sheâ€™ll file a complaint with the FTC and the FCC if the ad neglects those facts.
CBSâ€™s actions imply that they either have a financial stake in specifically courting the Religious Right or that theyâ€™re simply afraid of their wrath. If this were purely about generating revenue and hype, the ManCrunch.com ad would have been accepted along with Focus on the Familyâ€™s.
Typical football fans made uncomfortable by two men kissing likely outnumber those annoyed by anti-choice zealots or Tebow Mania, so CBS is picking commercials accordingly. Yet, even more people will decry any intertwining of politics and football. It just makes you wonder why CBS even put itself in this mess in the first place.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.