Interesting Take on Tebow Super Bowl Ad

If you have an interest in college football, there’s a good chance you know all about Tim Tebow. Having won two national championships and a Heisman trophy, the former Florida quarterback is on the short list of individuals who can be considered the greatest college football player of all time.

But Tebow, born to missionary parents in the Phillipines, has also become a polarizing figure in some quarters as a result of regularly and openly expressing his Christian faith. (For an in depth feature on Tebow, check out this Sports Illustrated article.) That polarization has only increased due to the Super Bowl ad he’s scheduled to appear in alongside his mother.

While pregnant with Tim, Pam Tebow contracted a disease that put both their lives at risk. Doctors reportedly advised her to abort in the interest of protecting her life, but Pam chose to bring Tim to term and both survived. The ad, sponsored by Focus on the Family, is expected to highlight this story along with the theme “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”

Though neither the ad or its text have been released, it has already drawn fire from abortion advocacy groups. Erin Matson, the Action Vice President of the National Organization for Women, offered this assessment: “This ad is frankly offensive. It is hate masquerading as love. It sends a message that abortion is always a mistake.” Jehmu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center, says CBS is “inserting an exceedingly controversial issue into a place where we all hope Americans will be united, not divided, in terms of watching America’s most-watched sporting event.”

It’s against this backdrop that I found Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins’ latest column so interesting (kudos to our own Justin Garrett for pointing it out to me). Jenkins is avowedly pro-choice (a point she makes twice in the article), yet she has little patience for those protesting the ad. While I might differ with her at points, her entire article is worth reading. Some excerpts:

We’re always harping on athletes to be more responsible and engaged in the issues of their day, and less concerned with just cashing checks. It therefore seems more than a little hypocritical to insist on it only if it means criticizing sneaker companies, and to stifle them when they take a stance that might make us uncomfortable.
Tebow’s 30-second ad hasn’t even run yet, but it already has provoked “The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us” to reveal something important about themselves: They aren’t actually “pro-choice” so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn’t be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikini selling beer is the right one.
Trouble is, you can’t focus on the game without focusing on the individuals who play it — and that is the genius of Tebow’s ad. The Super Bowl is not some reality-free escape zone. Tebow himself is an inescapable fact: Abortion doesn’t just involve serious issues of life, but of potential lives, Heisman trophy winners, scientists, doctors, artists, inventors, Little Leaguers — who would never come to be if their birth mothers had not wrestled with the stakes and chosen to carry those lives to term. And their stories are every bit as real and valid as the stories preferred by NOW.
CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants, and Tebow has a right to express his beliefs publicly. Just as I have the right to reject or accept them after listening — or think a little more deeply about the issues. If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem.

Tebow’s ad, by the way, never mentions abortion; like the player himself, it’s apparently soft-spoken. It simply has the theme “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.” This is what NOW has labeled “extraordinarily offensive and demeaning.” But if there is any demeaning here, it’s coming from NOW, via the suggestion that these aren’t real questions, and that we as a Super Bowl audience are too stupid or too disinterested to handle them on game day.

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