Ah, the Super Bowl. A day when people across America come together to cheer on their favorite football teams, chomp on chips, swill beer… and watch anti-abortion ads?
This year CBS is set to air a pro-life advertisement during the Super Bowl. This signals the end of the network’s policy of barring advocacy ads from sporting events, and ensures that Game Day will create a divide among spectators that is about more than the Saints and the Colts.
The commercial, paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, will feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mother Pam. The ad will address Pam’s decision not to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Tim in 1987, despite the fact that it was recommended by a doctor due to her illness. This choice led to the birth of Tim, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and the BCS Championship in 2006 and 2008 during his college football career at the University of Florida.
While you may or may not agree with the message this advertisement is sending, one thing that pro-choice activists and anti-abortionists should be able to agree on is that these politically charged commercials have no place at the Super Bowl.
This is especially true considering CBS is picking and choosing which causes to give airtime to, which is evident from their decision to nix two pro-homosexuality commercials that were submitted for consideration.
An ad from GoDaddy.com, which stars a fictional former football player who becomes a fashion designer and launches a lingerie line upon retirement, was deemed to “have the potential to offend viewers,” according to the network. In addition, CBS discarded a Super Bowl commercial from ManCrunch, a Toronto-based gay dating website, which featured a kiss between two male football fans after their hands touch in a bowl of potato chips. Their reasoning? It apparently did not meet the quality deemed necessary by their Standards and Practices Department.
In response, Jarrett Barriors, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), issued a statement saying, “CBS has a problem when they do something like this at the same time as they allow an anti-gay group like Focus on the Family to place ads during the Super Bowl. The network should come clean to the public about what’s going on, because this seems to be a homophobic double standard.”
The network has faced similar accusations in the past, such as in 2004 when they rejected an advertisement by the United Church of Christ that emphasized its open stance regarding homosexuality.
Some questions that arise from these decisions: What are CBS’s standards? What makes them decide to include a blatantly anti-abortion advertisement in their Super Bowl lineup, but not a commercial that includes a football player turned fashion designer or two men kissing? Why do they think these ads “have the potential to offend viewers,” but apparently don’t think the same of a pro-life commercial sponsored by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, a man who once said that gay marriage will “destroy the earth”?
While it is true that everyone has a right to free speech, the members of a single department at CBS should not be able to have the ultimate say in deciding what is and isn’t appropriate for the general public, especially when these choices show support for one political sect of the country over another. By limiting the free speech of certain groups by not allowing their advertisements to air during the Super Bowl, CBS is presenting itself as a discriminatory network, a portrayal that is not good to have during this tough economic time — or ever.
The Super Bowl is an event that is supposed to unify the country for a day. It is seen as a welcome break from a typical day in the news cycle, when talk of healthcare reform and war dominates the airwaves. But when blatant advocacy ads find their way into sporting events, it reignites the red state/blue state divide of the nation and brings politics into sports, where it does not belong.
So please, CBS. Keep your politics out of my Super Bowl.