An unusual thing happened in the weeks prior to the 44th Super Bowl. As you know, Super Bowl ads have become just about as anticipated as the game itself. But this year, one ad in particular created a level of controversy unlike any other Super Bowl ad.
It was a serious ad about a choice a mother made to go against her doctors’ advice to have an abortion to protect her health. Instead, she had her baby. That baby was Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida and perhaps the most recognizable collegiate athlete in sports history.
Tebow and his mother Pam were featured in the ad sponsored by Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Christian family ministry. It sparked responses from so-called pro-choice and feminist groups that offended even members of the liberal media.
For instance, when it was announced that Focus on the Family had purchased a 30-second spot featuring the Tebows, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Feminist Majority and the Women’sMedia Center immediately demanded that CBS ban the ad. Even though they had not seen the ad, a spokesperson for NOW called the ad “…extraordinarily offensive and demeaning.” They said the ad “endangered women’s health” and predicted CBS would suffer disastrous consequences if they ran the ad.
CBS did not back down.
It needs to be repeated here that no one at NOW or with any of the other feminist groups had seen the ad, yet they claimed it was unfit to air during the Super Bowl. Because of the diatribes launched by groups such as NOW and the others, this 30-second ad received more pre-game publicity than any ad in Super Bowl history.
The ad was nothing like anyone thought it would be. “Abortion” was not even mentioned. Instead, Mrs. Tebow talked about the tough choice she made to put her life at risk to have her baby and how she worried for him. The ad ends with a special effects-generated image of Tim “tackling” his mom, then asking if she still worries about him. The ad was a warm, sincere and light-hearted snapshot of the devotion of a mom for her son.
But that is not how Terry O’Neil, the president of NOW, saw it. O’Neil told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Tebow tackling his mother glorified violence against women. O'Neill said, “I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it,” she told the Los Angeles Times and added “I think CBS should be ashamed of itself.”
What O’Neil’s remarks have done is provide incontrovertible evidence that these groups are not pro-choice, as they claim, but in reality, pro-abortion.
In an article published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Randy Hicks captured the essence of how the abortion advocates must have felt about the ad. Hicks wrote, “…the frustration they feel goes well beyond this Super Bowl ad to a much more fundamental problem: there’s just not a comparable feel-good story from the other perspective.”
He wrote, “We are human beings, and as such we prefer stories of life to stories of death. We are captivated by tales of loving sacrifice and of underdogs overcoming great odds to succeed.”
The Tebow story captures all those elements and that was the real problem for NOW and the other pro-abortion groups because as Hicks points out, it is “…difficult to find warm and inspiring stories that feature ‘terminating pregnancies.’ There may be stories about hard choices, but nothing that causes the human spirit to soar.”
And that is the essence of the Tebow ad – a mother chose to struggle through a difficult and dangerous pregnancy to give birth to her child who grew up to win the Heisman Trophy, lead his team to a national championship and be a tremendous witness for his Christian faith.
The Focus on the Family ad, which ran at the beginning of the game, succeeded beyond anything they hoped for or imagined. They ran the ad to celebrate life and the love of a mother for her son. But, providentially their message set the stage for another vivid display of parental love at the end of the game.
With cameras streaming to the largest audience in the history of television, the world saw another pro-family vignette. With the stadium lights revealing tears on his cheeks, the Saints’ quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees celebrated by holding and kissing his son instead of holding up the trophy and celebrating with the crowd.
The Super Bowl began with an ad featuring the love of a mother and son and ended with a father’s unashamed expression of love for his son. It was a celebration of life and family and no one could have planned it any better.
About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.