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Associated Press/Photo by Phil Sandlin

Tebow time

Sports | Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad has NFL and networks on its side

Issue: "The Haiti quake," Feb. 13, 2010

CBS faced a storm of controversy after announcing it had sold Super Bowl ad time to the Christian organization Focus on the Family. Though Focus has not released details of the ad, it has confirmed it will tell the story of Pam Tebow and her Heisman trophy-winning son, Tim. A pregnant Pam rejected the advice of doctors that her son would likely be stillborn, and she gave birth to a healthy boy who went on to lead the Florida Gators to the national championship in 2008 and is projected to be a top NFL draft pick next spring. Focus says the theme of the spot, which reportedly cost $2.5 million to $2.8 million, is "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."

Some groups contest that Focus' description is really a smokescreen for a commercial that will advocate an anti-abortion view. While the largest of these groups, the National Organization for Women (NOW), admits that no one at its organization has seen the ad or a script for it, a message on its website calls it "offensive," "revolting," and claims it will send the message that "all women who give birth are heroes" and "abortion is always a mistake." Along with 30 other pro-abortion groups, NOW is petitioning CBS to "immediately cancel this ad and refuse any other advertisement promoting Focus on the Family's agenda."

Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger says NOW mischaracterized the ad: "It's not an anti- anything ad. It's a very pro-family, inspirational ad. It's 30 seconds of a mother and son who love each other deeply and demonstrably, and in my book we need more of that-not just on Super Bowl Sunday, but also on the other 364 days of the year." He told me that while Focus remains "unapologetically, unchangingly pro-life," the purpose of the ad is simply to make viewers aware of Focus as a resource for families facing a variety of struggles, including unplanned pregnancy. In years past CBS rejected commercials that could be interpreted as political, but it recently adjusted its policy: "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," CBS spokesman Dana McClintock told the Associated Press. The NFL is backing the network's decision, telling Reuters, "CBS standards and practices department approved the content of the ad as appropriate for the audience. We take no issue with CBS' decision."

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Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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