Tuesday, January 26, 2010

He’s not even in the NFL yet, but former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is making a starring appearance at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami.

While the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning and the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees will be the quarterbacks on the field, the Heisman Trophy-winning college star will appear with his mother, Pam, on TV in an ad for the pro-life Christian group Focus on the Family that will air during the game.

The 30-second ad’s theme is “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” and a Focus on the Family press release said the Tebows agreed to the ad because “the issue of life is one they feel strongly about.” As a result, the ad is widely expected to focus on Mrs. Tebow’s pregnancy with Tim, when she was encouraged by doctors to abort him.

Still, Focus on the Family is keeping the specific content of the ad under wraps until its Feb. 7 debut, in an effort to build anticipation.

“The Tebows, they have a lot of really inspiring stories. And [Mrs. Tebow] and Tim are going to share one of those stories on February the 7th,” said Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family spokesman.

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, said in a statement, “Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive.”

The Tebows are evangelical Christians who have served as missionaries in the Philippines on numerous occasions and founded the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which continues to evangelize in the Philippines, where Tim was born.

During one of the mission trips, Mrs. Tebow came down with amoebic dysentery and slipped into a coma, requiring a treatment regimen that included strong antibiotics that can damage or kill an unborn child. When Mrs. Tebow learned she was pregnant, doctors advised her to abort the baby, whom she and her husband had prayed for and already named Timothy, she told the Gainesville, Fla., Sun in 2007.

Tim Tebow grew up to be one of the greatest players in college football history — becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy as the game’s best player, being nominated as a Heisman finalist two other times, and helping lead the Florida Gators to two national titles in his four years at the university.

Tim Tebow has frequently evangelized about of his Christian faith and literally wears it on his face.

He puts the numbers of Bible verses on the black anti-glare patches that players wear under their eyes. In his last college game, a Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati, he displayed Ephesians 2:8-10, which reads in part, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The Tebows’ ad will be Colorado-based Focus on the Family’s first during a Super Bowl, typically the year’s most-watched TV show, with the most expensive advertising rates — from $2.5 million to $3 million for a 30-second ad. The world’s biggest companies pay millions of dollars for specialized ad campaigns designed to create buzz separate from the action on the field, particularly if the contest is a blowout.

Last year, NBC rejected a pro-life Super Bowl commercial because of its policy against running political advocacy or issue ads, but Mr. Schneeberger said CBS executives have seen and approved the Focus on the Family script.

“It’s not a political ad, it’s an inspiring family story at a time when people need to hear and see those stories,” Mr. Schneeberger said, adding that the commercial was paid for specifically by friends of the ministry who were excited by its message.

CBS said the finished Focus on the Family ad will be reviewed before it is approved to air, but the network does not anticipate any problems that would prevent the ad from airing.

“Our standards-and-practices process continues to adhere to a policy that ensures that all ads on all sides of an issue are appropriate for air,” said CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs.

CBS did reject a Super Bowl advocacy ad in 2004 by the liberal group Moveon.org that attacked President George W. Bush and also a “rope line” ad by the pro-gay United Church of Christ that painted other churches as club bouncers designed to keep people out. Last year NBC rejected a spot that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wanted to air during the game because of sexual imagery.

As a result of these decisions, liberal media analysts, a Facebook group and at least one coalition of national feminist groups have called on CBS to withdraw the ad or stand accused of a double standard.

“It isn’t surprising the CBS’ hypocrisy has sparked an effort throughout the progressive blogosphere and on Facebook demanding that the network either reject the Focus on the Family ad or agree to also air the UCC’s,” wrote Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America on Monday.

Attempts by The Washington Times to reach Tim Tebow and his mother for comment on the Focus on the Family ad and the growing criticism of it were unsuccessful. But during practice Monday for the Senior Bowl all-star game in Mobile, Ala., he was asked about his ad and acknowledged that “some people won’t agree with it.”

“But I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe, and I’m never shy about that,” he told reporters. “I don’t feel like I’m very preachy about it, but I do stand up for what I believe. Unfortunately, in today’s society, not many athletes seem to do that.”

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