Ethics Note To The Sports Media Regarding Their Coverage of Michael Sam: SHUT UP!


Ever since University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam made the announcement that he is gay, sports writers, broadcasters and columnists have been hailing his courage, bashing his detractors, and pointing with derision to the portion of social media buzz that has revealed the nation’s ugly homophobic side. The irony is that it is the mostly positive media obsession with Sam’s status as a potential trailblazer, rather than the antigay hate-mongers, who diminish Sam’s chances of success with their every word. This is obvious, or should be, yet the articles and rants keep on coming. I have to believe that it is a case of sports journalists engaging in the ultimate hypocrisy, making themselves look fair, unbigoted and devoted to the cause of full gay inclusion in American life (all while making their deadlines) while simultaneously and knowingly undermining the athlete they claim to be supporting. They have to shut up, or Sam is doomed.

Which means, unfortunately, that Sam is doomed….and that means that this episode, rather than advancing the cause of gay athletes, will be a serious setback for them instead. Continue reading

A Confession

Nyaa-nyaa! What are you going to tweet now, Bill?

There are few things I care about less than NFL football. However, having just seen Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos upset the favored Pittsburgh Steelers in their play-off game with a shocking first play touchdown pass in overtime, I am greatly enjoying the distress this must be causing the likes of Tebow-haters like Bill Maher, Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, and every pundit who has expressed contempt for an honorable and decent young man whose twin offenses have been open religiosity and athletic success.

Is this unkind of me?

Yes, I suppose it is.

Tim Tebow Hatred and the Rabbi’s Fears

How dare he?

I have avoided weighing into the controversy over Tim Tebow, the Denver Bronco quarterback whose very public Christianity, combined with his penchant for leading miracle comeback victories for his team, has made him the most polarizing figure in sports today, and one of the most polarizing people in the culture as a whole. I have avoided commenting because I think the ethics of the controversy are obvious. Tebow is a decent, law-abiding, well-bred young man in a sector of our culture that produces profane, semi-literate, violent, or arrogant  jerks, fools, cheats and felons, not to mention arrested adolescents, by the hundreds, who are cheered, worshipped and enriched based solely on their talent to excel in stadiums and arenas. Anyone who chooses Tim Tebow, out of all these travesties of sports celebrity, to deride solely because he is vocal about his religious beliefs isn’t worth arguing about, because the verdict’s in: that critic’s priorities are backwards, inside out and warped. Tebow, unlike the NFL’s assorted felons, the NBA’s many dead-beat dads, and baseball’s steroid cheats, is a worthy role model for kids. He is humble, respectful, does his job and plays by the rules. What’s not to like?

Well, we know the answer to that question. He prays on the field, thanks God after every touchdown pass, and is prone to saying things like, “First and foremost I gotta thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ”  to reporters. Is it annoying? Oh, sure it is. This stuff is annoying from any athlete. To begin with, it is silly—the very idea that a Supreme Being gives a hoot which wins a football game is infantile—and it comes off as a commercial, like an athlete who makes sure that he says, “Well, first and foremost I have to thank the General Mills  people, because Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions,” has made me who I am today!”  in every interview. But Tebow’s statements aren’t  commercials, though, and anyone inclined to be fair knows it. This is a man with a deep religious faith who really believes that God guides his every move, and that it is right and responsible to thank Him when  the quarterback  is being celebrated for athletic exploits that in Tebow’s belief system are the product of his relationship with his deity. The sentiment is sincere and the motivation is virtuous. For Tebow’s displays of faith to incur hatred is an indictment of the haters. If he annoys you, don’t listen to him. If you do, the annoyance is your fault, not Tebow’s. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

More Tebow Ad Ethics: Allred’s Complaint

The much-anticipated Super Bowl ad telling the story of how quarterback Tim Tebow was born because his mother rejected a doctor’s advice to have him aborted for medical reasons is spinning off ethical issues at a dizzying rate.

Some are easily settled, as Ethics Alarms has already noted. There is nothing wrong with a Super Bowl ad raising substantive issues in the middle of beer commercials and tackles, as some have (incredibly) argued. There is nothing unethical about CBS changing its policy regarding issue-oriented commercials.  The fact that the network rejected such ads in the past does not make it hypocritical now. CBS, having ended a blanket prohibition, must now be fair and reasonable in deciding which issue ads to accept. Let’s see how it goes before we cry foul.

And there is nothing “anti-choice” about a woman’s story of how she chose not to abort her son, and is glad she did. It is not even an anti-abortion ad, unless the pro-abortion movement literally believes that it is wrong not to have an abortion. She had a choice, and she made it. The message of the ad does encourage thought about the consequences of having the procedure, which is unequivocally good.

Now, however, Hollywood lawyer and woman’s rights advocate Gloria Allred has suggested that Tebow and his mother are spinning a tale that is inspiring, powerful, and full of baloney, and she has sent CBS a letter of protest. Continue reading

Super Sunday Ethics: Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Superbowl Ad

N.F.L. quarterback Tim Tebow is in the middle of a fierce culture wars controvesy because he agreed to let his life story be the centerpiece of a Super Bowl ad created by Focus on the Family, the evangelical group founded by James Dobson. has bought air time during the Super Bowl. The ad features Tebow and his mother relating how she rejected the advice of doctors when urged her to have an abortion. She had the baby, and he grew up to be a football star. A touchdown for the anti-abortion team.

Some women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women, are petitioning  CBS not to air the ad during next month’s Super Bowl, always one of the most-watched television events of the year. Continue reading