Former U. of Fla. quarterback sparks controversy with Super Bowl spot
A popular former University of Florida quarterback and his mother are slated to appear in a Focus on the Family ad that will hit the airwaves during the upcoming Super Bowl.
The 30-second spot, which carries an estimated $3 million price tag, features the outspoken Tim Tebow and his mother. It is likely to address Tebow’s anti-abortion beliefs rather than a specifically anti-gay angle. Nevertheless, One Orlando has joined a coalition of women’s groups that includes the New York-based Women’s Media Center and the National Organization for Women in protest of CBS’s decision to air the ad.
Mary Meeks, a spokeswoman for One Orlando, encouraged "all fair-minded citizens" to join her organization in condemning Tebow’s participation in the ad by contacting the network directly. While she had not heard a response from CBS as of Monday, she said many members of her organization had already contacted the network’s New York headquarters.
"[Tebow] has been held up as a role model and someone to be admired, and for him to use that position to glorify an organization that is so horrible is reckless," Meeks said. "For him to associate himself with an organization that causes so much harm and furthers rhetoric that, I think you can fairly say, kills people is very harmful."
Responding to the media on Sunday, Tebow, a former Heisman winner, defended his participation in the spot. He referenced his personal experience as the impetus for his long-held beliefs. When he was born in the Philippines in 1987, his mother had contracted an infection and doctors who had expected a stillbirth suggested an abortion. Pam Tebow carried Tim to term and both survived.
"I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe, and I’m never shy about that," Tebow said. "I don’t feel like I’m very preachy about it, but I do stand up for what I believe ... I’ve always been very convicted of it because that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman... So any way that I could help, I would do it."
CBS officials seem to agree with Tebow; and they reportedly approved the ad’s script last week. While their approval is pending a review of the final product on video, a CBS spokesman indicated the network "did not anticipate any hurdles." It has received correspondence both supporting and protesting their likely decision to air the ad.
Meeks and others contesting the ad argue CBS’s decision stands in the face of the network’s precedent of banning certain types of issue advocacy advertisements. The restriction even prohibited advertisements advocating an ’implicit’ endorsement for a publicly-debated issue. CBS referenced that policy in 2004 when it rejected a gay-friendly television spot the United Church of Christ attempted to air during that year’s Super Bowl.
CBS admits it has eased such restrictions on ads, vowing to consider any that are "responsibly produced." Critics maintain, however, only harm can come from the network’s decision. A Facebook group with more than 5,500 members wants to either see the ad rejected or the UCC ad aired in addition.
"I think this sets a horrible precedent in the media, crossing a line that is truly unacceptable," Meeks told EDGE. "To allow someone of such prominence and stature to use this platform and lend credibility to this organization is dangerous."