Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Very Corporate Wardrobe Malfunction

As a Crystal Palace fan and a Cardiff resident, football's not been very good to me this week. And with Gloucester RFC not setting the world on fire and Gloucestershire CCC a long way from being back in action, America's been providing my sporting fix of late. Which would be fine if they could manage to hold something as simple as a Super Bowl without dragging politics into it.

It all started with a player who isn't playing in the Super Bowl and may well never do so. Tim Tebow has just finished his final season as quarterback at the University of Florida, having won both a National Championship and the Heisman Trophy during his four years with his hometown alma mater. Tebow has long been subject to nationwide scrutiny, particularly now as he moves into the professional ranks where long-standing questions about the suitability of his own personal skill set to the NFL will finally be answered.

Tebow's initial claim to fame, however, came well before his recognition as a professional-calibre player. He was one of the first players to benefit from a 1996 Florida law allowing home-schooled students to play for the high school team of the school district in which they lived, but moved with his mother to an apartment in a different district so that he could play for a bigger school that passed more. At first the move was controversial, since conventionally-schooled players could not move districts with such ease, but Tebow is now the poster child for efforts to give the same rights to home-schooled children in other states.

And then, with his place in professional football still tentative and millions of dollars resting on his every action between now and the draft in late April, Tebow decided to wade right into the middle of the abortion battle and in that most public of American settings; a Super Bowl ad.

You see, the reason Tebow was home-schooled is that his parents are missionaries who wanted their children's education to reflect their Christian values. And Tim certainly wears his faith on his sleeve, or more accurately on his eye black which regularly carries references to biblical passages. But on Super Bowl Sunday, he'll wear it in an $2.5million ad for Focus On The Family which, as the name suggests, is an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-evolution lobbying organisation.

There are two minor problems with this. In the first case, CBS had previously banned such advocacy ads altogether, notably in 2004 when the United Church of Christ, Barack Obama's own denomination, were prevented from running this ad welcoming gay and lesbian members;

Perhaps more pertinently, however, there is the likelihood that the ad itself will be, well, bollocks. It's expected to feature Tim and his mother, Pam, "telling their personal story", namely that while Pam was pregnant during a missionary trip to the Philippines in 1987, she contracted amoebic dysentery and suffered a placental abruption after which she was advised to have an abortion. Which is fine, except that abortion in the Philippines has been illegal since 1870, specifically prohibited in the constitution since, gee, 1987 and carries a six year jail sentence for anyone performing or receiving one. If you can find me a doctor who advises an abortion under those circumstances...

Meanwhile, CBS have been reviewing ads for the back-up list for the Super Bowl and saw fit to reject this fine example of the advertising executive's art;

Because, of course, a major television network isn't an enormous hypocrite, oh no...

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