CBS’ Choice of Super Bowl Commercials Promotes Discrimination, Stereotypes


by Tyler Murphy

Super Bowl XLIV has come and gone, with the Saints finally proving that they aren’t the “ain’ts” and CBS proving it holds a double standard for advertising it considers “appropriate to air.” While the high-priced Super Bowl commercial time slots were filled with moments of levity – from hordes of pantless men to devoted Doritos fans – one ad in particular is causing a political stir.

Social conservative group Focus on the Family tapped University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother to star in a $2.5 million antiabortion ad. While the actual commercial was relatively dull – especially compared to Super Bowl standards – its airing nevertheless raises numerous concerns.

The ad begins with Tebow’s mother, Pam, calling her son a “miracle baby.” The ad encourages viewers to “celebrate family, celebrate life” and to visit the organization’s Web site to read the “full Tebow story.” The full story, according to, is that doctors told Pam that her “Timmy” was “not a baby but a mass of fetal tissue that should be aborted immediately.” God, she went on to say, “spared Timmy in the womb … and on the field at the University of Kentucky.” As to what advice the Tebows would give women facing a difficult pregnancy, Tebow’s father looks dramatically into the camera pleading, “Don’t kill your baby.” The implication is clear: the Tebow story is being exploited as a tool to combat abortion.

CBS said this advertisement for gay dating Web site did not meet their broadcasting standards.

The ad was certainly controversial. But what raises even more concerns about CBS’s choice (no pun intended) to air the ad is its decision against airing another controversial commercial. Online gay dating site ManCrunch proposed an ad in which two men – fans of opposing teams – watch football together. As they reach for a snack, their hands touch and they dramatically kiss as “I Wanna Kiss This Guy” plays in the background. The ad, according to CBS, did not meet their “standards and practices.”

But what does meet these standards, apparently, is a series of ads that protest a woman’s right to choose and enforce the strict gender stereotypes into which American men and women are confined by our culture. In 2007, an Snickers ad depicting two men touching mouths as they shared a candy bar was appropriate for the network since the men “did something manly” to make up for what was implicitly portrayed as “feminine.” This year, a FloTV ad depicted an emasculated – “spineless” – man shopping with his girlfriend. He’s emasculated, according to the ad, because he can’t watch football. So it makes sense that the network would frown on the ManCrunch ad because the two kissing men watching football would not fit the masculine stereotype embodied by the sport.

Certainly CBS is not the only network to advance an agenda. But that makes their actions no less excusable. If the network was concerned with political advocacy and “sending the wrong message,” the Tebow ad and others advancing gender stereotypes would have been banned as well. Or they would have agreed to air the ManCrunch ad and demonstrated enough faith in their viewers to reach their own conclusions and opinions.

Just as Pam Tebow’s decision should be respected – even by the most ardent of UK fans – so too should the choice of every woman facing an equally difficult decision. And just as we as a society tolerate depictions of straight sexuality on television, so too should we accept and tolerate depictions reminding us that there are some in our society who are not confined to the social narratives we construct.


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