This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Tim Tebow, University of Florida Heisman-winning quarterback, known as much if not more for his strong Christian faith as his world-class athletic status, will appear in a Superbowl ad that is stirring fervent debate. During her pregnancy with son Tim, in 1987, Pam Tebow was advised by doctors to consider aborting because of complications. She continued to full term and her fifth child, Tim, came into this world as a result of her decision.
The two of them, mother and son, will appear in a $2.5 million ad during the most-watched television program of the year, relaying the story of how grateful they both are for Pam's decision.
CBS has been defending their sale of the spot all week, claiming to pro-choice women's groups especially, that their intent to run the ad comes with the understanding that the views expressed in the ad do not reflect the network's political stance.
The abortion issue is the most heated, most divisive subject among Americans. If CBS allows anti-abortion views a platform for thirty seconds, don't they then need to give equal time to pro-choice factions? But since the pro-choice factions aren't able to cough up $2.5 million to represent their views, CBS will go with the one side alone. This is far from running, let's say, a plea to donate for relief in Haiti, where there is no opposing position.
Throughout his college career, Tim Tebow had inscribed in his eye black, the smears of black ink under a player's eyes that serve to deflect the glare from bright light, a citation from various books of the Bible. I, for one, have been both surprised and somewhat offended by that. The unity of team is held so high in the dangerous sport of football that there are stringent wardrobe rules. No shirt tails flapping, socks must be a certain height. It is not up to any one individual to use his uniform, his school, his team, to speak his personal beliefs. Now if a player is asked in an interview what he thinks was behind his victory and he answers he owes it all to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he was asked, and he answered as he knew best. Fair enough. But to take the field in a University of Florida uniform with a particular biblical reference noted prominently on your body? To me, it's wrong.
You will see sub-groups within teams kneel and pray, either on the field or in the locker room. But the entire team is not required to pray because that wouldn't be fair to those whose beliefs don't fall within those particular Christian parameters.
Worldwide sporting events have a long history for being used to cast a spotlight on political statements and protests. Yet these statements are not condoned by the sponsors nor the event organizers. In this Superbowl case, CBS is providing Tebow's political voice enormous power. Some 100 million people, more than half of whom watch the telecast more for the commercials than for the game itself, are going to be exposed to thirty seconds of anti-abortion proselytizing. Some cry "free speech" in condoning the ad. Standing on a corner and ranting is "free speech." Writing an editorial for a newspaper is “free speech”. CBS's sale of thirty seconds to the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family is "bought speech."
I'd like to think that I'd feel the same discomfort if the situation were reversed and just one thirty-second pro-choice spot were to be featured on Superbowl Sunday. It would be wrong not to hear from the other side.
No, let me rethink that. It's wrong to hear any of this during a sporting event. CBS should stick to selling Doritos and Coca Cola. And they should tell Tim Tebow he has plenty of more appropriate places and times to spread his personal gospel, inspiring to some, offensive to others.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators stands on the field before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images