After the Tebow Ad

The Super Bowl ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother that caused so much angst and controversy before it aired turned out to be mild, understated and forgettable. Now we know why CBS felt it could use the spot to move away from its long-time ban on issue advertising during the NFL’s big game. We also know that the actual ad made the argument by abortion rights groups that the ad would be inappropriately “divisive” for an American sports ritual designed to bring us together seem even more ridiculous than it was—no mean trick.

In the ad, Quarterback Tebow and his mother never did tell the story of his birth after Pam Tebow had been counseled to terminate her pregnancy. You had to go to a website to read about it. Indeed, had the various advocacy groups that opposed the ad just kept their collective rage to themselves, few viewers would know about the pro-life aspects of the Tebow story. All of the ad’s work was done before it ran, thank to the pre-Super Bowl sputtering of NARAL, NOW, and their colleagues.

Having been thoroughly outsmarted, out-maneuvered and trounced in the pro/anti-abortion public relations wars, the women’s groups who led the protest against CBS had several ethical options:

1. Say nothing. (Ethical values: Self-restraint, prudence, modesty, honesty)

2. Say this:  “Having finally seen the Super Bowl commercial featuring Tim Tebow and his mother, we withdraw our objections. We understand the CBS decision to run it, and applaud the Tebows and Focus on Family for their good taste and moderation regarding this very sensitive issue.” (Ethical values: respect, grace, fairness, civility, honesty.)

3. Say this: “We apologize to CBS, the Tim Tebow, his mother, and Focus on Family for our earlier criticism, which was based on misinformation. (Ethical values: accountability, humility, honesty, civility.)

Most of the groups, as well as lawyer Gloria Allred, who also had registered pre-ad objections, have taken the first option, which is fine. None, to my knowledge, have taken options 1 or 2.

Here, however, was the statement by NOW president Terry O’Neill:

“I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it. That’s what comes across to me even more strongly than the anti-abortion message. I myself am a survivor of domestic violence, and I don’t find it charming. I think CBS should be ashamed of itself.”

This was dishonest, unfair, ungracious, and extremely silly. The ad shows Tebow playfully “tackling” his Mom, who shows how “tough” she is by shaking it off as she had been tickled by a feather. The sequence was obviously not real, it was obviously intended as slapstick humor, and it was obviously not a “celebration of violence against women” any more than a Warner Brothers cartoon is a celebration of violence against rabbist, ducks and coyotes. [Aside: O’Neill’s comment only narrowly missed surpassing Ariana Huffington for the all-time most outrageous accusation regarding violence against women . When Huffington was running against Arnold Schwartzeneggar for governor of California, she said that Arnold’s last movie, “Terminator 3,” proved that he enjoyed abusing women. In that film, 1. Arnold was playing an android who was rescuing Claire Danes, the only real woman in the film, 2. the “woman” he physically attacked was also an android, and no more a real woman than he was, and 3. the android “woman” beat the tar out of him, not the other way around. No, Arianna still has the record. ]

What O’Neill demonstrated is that she, and by extension the organization she represents, doesn’t have the courage or decency to admit when she has been wrong, and prefers instead to villify those who disagree with her rather than be fair or respectful.

7 thoughts on “After the Tebow Ad

  1. NOW is a defunct, only self-serving organization. They talk only to themselves; at least, the only ones who take them seriously are themselves.

    Find betters issue, guys. You’re starting to sound like a bunch of yahoos. And please, if you overreact, have the decency to say so.

  2. Call me ridiculous, but can someone find for me an Ethics Hero? This particular ethics hero will be a company or organization that acknowledges their adversary in a neutral, respectful manner. While this Ethics Hero is trying to sell their own point, they will recognize the valid points made by their adversary.

    So many of us these days assume there is only one point of view and that everything is mutually exclusive. But I have news for you: It’s all interconnected!

    We may have evolved from some original creation.
    We might choose new life.
    We democrat-ically elect our representatives for our republic.
    We capitalize on our hard work efforts and turn around and give to social charitable causes.

    The analysis of Cognitive Dissonance is spot on, but here’s one way to reduce its effect…realize that 99 times out of 100, you are wrong.

    I’m hoping that this is one of my “right” times.

  3. I watched the ad and forgot all about the controversy. If there was an anti-abortion message in there, I completely missed it.

    But I did laugh. I found myself trying to figure out what it all meant, then remembered the controversy.

    If that was an anti-abortion ad, it’s message was too subtle to impact anybody. If I hadn’t read about it, I would have had to look it up on the Internet to see what it was all about.

    Then again, perhaps that was the design — to make you curious. If so, it was a victory of understatement over the current trend of excessiveness in advertising.

  4. Glenn…I’ll go a step further: it was a terrible ad, unless it was specifically and diabolically designed to 1) trick pro-abortion advocates into attacking it sight-unseen, thus making its message explicit without ever having to present it, and 2) make the attackers look silly by revealing the most innocuous commercial imaginable. Wilford Brimley asks Paul Newman in the climax of “Absence of Malice””Are you that smart?”, and I have to ask the same of Focus on Family. If the group is that smart, it deserves a lot of credit. What I suspect, however, is the opposite: NOW et al. were that dumb.

    • I, too, saw the ad and was stunned by its blandness. As I suspected, it won’t affect any opinions, and was a waste of money by FOF (thank goodness; wish they had purchased more time). Call me cynical–could it be that they changed the ad after the controversy? Supposedly, it was supposed to recount the agony of the mother’s decision to have her baby at the risk of her own life. In any case, I think the pro-choice advocates could have turned the tables on this ad if they had emphasized the importance of a woman’s right to make an informed choice. They blew it.

    • I don’t know, Jack. After taking the whole thing into account, I believe they were that smart. Almost no other explanation makes sense, except for one — just plain lucky. The commercial bore no relation to how it was described in the media.

      And yes, I believe NOW et. al. were also that dumb. The combination has been hilarious, to say the very least. Watching the pro-choice crowd twist themselves into knots attacking something so astonishingly inoffensive is worthy of a half-hour on Saturday Night Live.

  5. Could we have your take on CBS now rejecting an ad in favor of legalizing marijuana? I thought they had changed their policy but maybe there’s something I”m missing!

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