Never one to be shy about touting his Christian beliefs (starting with those Bible chapter-verse references inscribed in white letters on black smudges under his eyes during games), Tebow will appear in the commercial with his mother, Pam, who reportedly will tell one of the Tebow family’s favorite stories: How, after severe complications arose in her 1987 pregnancy, she declined medical advice to have an abortion. Her fifth child—Tim—was born and went on to win the Heisman trophy in 2007 (and is rarin’ to go for the 2010 NFL draft).
Although various reports about the ad have not determined to what degree it conveys an antiabortion message, Focus on the Family said in a news release that it’s part of a “Celebrate Life, Celebrate Family” campaign. The group’s chairman said this is a “meaningful message about family and life [that] comes at the right moment in the culture.”
CBS’s acceptance of the advocacy ad seems to mark a shift in network policy against airing Super Bowl commercials with divisive political or social content.
The Tebow spot will be a blip in that uniquely American four-hour barrage of beer ads, computer ads, car ads, “Iron Man 2” ads, GoDaddy.com ads, Pepsi ads, and, almost incidentally, four quarters of the New Orleans Saints versus the Indianapolis Colts (and halftime with the Who), but abortion rights groups aren’t having it. Last year, more than 98 million viewers—the most to date—watched the game.
After learning of the ad late Monday, Women’s Media Center (speaking on behalf of the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation and other organizations) asked CBS to pull the ad. It also questioned how and why the network, which used to forbid “advocacy” advertising, agreed to air Focus on the Family’s spot, which is valued at $2.5 million to $3 million.
“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year—an event designed to bring Americans together,” Jehmu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, said in a statement.