This year, the most talked-about Super Bowl ad won’t likely feature dancing lizards, a steaming hot Cindy Crawford, or a talking baby. Nope, judging by early reaction, it will involve Florida Gators football star Tim Tebow, his mother, and possibly a pro-life message.
The spot — brought to CBS by the Christian organization Focus on the Family — is expected to share the story behind Tebow’s birth: Apparently, his mother refused to have an abortion after being advised by doctors to do so while she was pregnant with Tebow. The ad has caused an uproar among pro-choice advocates, who claim the Super Bowl — the most-watched event of the year — is an inappropriate place to invite political debate. Not to mention put a large percentage of its viewing public in danger.
“This ad uses one story to subtly dictate morality to the American public, and encourages women to disregard medical advice, potentially putting their lives at risk,” Women’s Media Center said in a statement. But that’s not their only gripe: the group claims that CBS has “a well-documented history” of keeping controversial ads from the likes of PETA, MoveOn.org, and United Church of Christ off the air. (NBC, on the other hand, rejected a pro-life spot Catholic group Fidelis hoped to run during last year’s Super Bowl, as Women’s Media Center pointed out.) Pro-choice organizations are so enraged by the ad, they’ve even launched a campaign, demanding CBS pull the ad.
CBS, however, seems to be sticking to their guns. In a statement, the network said, “We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms on the issue. In fact, most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time. At CBS, our standards and practices process continues to adhere to a process that ensures all ads — on all sides of an issue — are appropriate for air. We will continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups for the few remaining spots in Super Bowl XLIV.” And though this might be the first time the network has aired an advocacy ad in such a high-profile slot, CBS does have a history airing spots from other advocacy groups, like Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, during normal programming.
One party left baffled by the controversy? Focus on the Family, the group who created the ad. “We’re not surprised that folks who disagree with some of the things that Focus on the Family stands for would launch a protest, and that’s absolutely the way it should be in America,” Gary Schneeberger of Focus on the Family told EW. “But we’re a little surprised about some of the things being said about an ad that no one has seen. Obviously, we’ve seen the ad. CBS has seen and approved the ad. And there’s nothing political or controversial about it.” (As for Tebow, the quarterback has told the press: “Some people won’t agree with it…But i stand up for what I believe, and I’m never shy about that.”)
Schneeberger won’t give details about what exactly is in the “refreshing and very inspiring” spot, since “if we were to give details about the specifics of it, we think it might dilute the power of the ad when it hits the air.” But if the situation were reversed, and a pro-choice ad were to be scheduled to run during the Super Bowl, would Focus on the Family be protesting its airing? “It’s hard to speculate,” he says. “It would depend upon the details.”
So now it’s time for you to weigh in, PopWatchers. Do you think the ad should be pulled?
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