In Theory:

The Super Bowl is this weekend. But the game won’t be played without a bit of controversy. CBS has rejected an ad from a gay dating website. While entirely commercial in nature, CBS argues that the spot “is not within the Network’s broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday.” While CBS has rejected other ads (one featuring a man named Lola), the folks behind the dating site say it is “straight-up discrimination.” What do you think? Is it “discrimination”? Do you believe the ad’s two gay characters had entirely to do with the rejection (maybe because an ad for a heterosexual site wouldn’t have been rejected)?

Rick Callister: Is CBS’s decision on the proposed ManCrunch.com ManCrunch.com 2010 Super Bowl advertisement “straight-up discrimination” or something else?

As I understand the facts, until this Super Bowl, CBS had a policy against advocacy advertisements. For a prior Super Bowl, CBS declined to show a United Church of Christ advertisement that dealt with gay couples attending church. For this year’s Super Bowl, CBS modified its standard and is now allowing advocacy advertisements, if they meet CBS’s standards. Presumably, CBS changed its position as a result of economic circumstances.

Recently, CBS agreed to air during the Super Bowl the Tim Tebow pro-life advertisement, a decision that has created its own set of controversies. Following that, CBS rejected a ManCrunch.com advertisement, stating, “After reviewing the ad — which is entirely commercial in nature — our Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot.” Interestingly, CBS said it did not consider the ManCrunch.com advertisement an advocacy advertisement. It did say that it was open to work with ManCrunch.com on an alternative submission.

Given the facts, raising the question of discrimination is appropriate. However, this does not mean that actual discrimination took place.

What is CBS’s standard for Super Bowl advertisements, and did it apply that standard uniformly?

Was the content of the advertisement appropriate for the Super Bowl audience, both as to substance and quality?

Does CBS have a history of bias against a particular group?

Did CBS fear public reaction to airing the advertisement more than a claim of discrimination?

All of these factors, and others, weigh into determining whether actual discrimination took place. I am not in a position to make a final determination on this.

Having said that, what is the standard to be applied for determining what advertisements are to be aired over the public airwaves? For example, was the Carl’s Jr. featuring a half-naked Paris Hilton advertisement appropriate? The Super Bowl is a magnet for entertaining and often over-the-top advertisements. In that environment, is the ManCrunch.com advertisement out of step, or has the entire Super Bowl advertisement environment been pushed too far?

Many questions are raised. The hard part is coming to the appropriate answers.--RICK CALLISTER is a member of the La Cañada II Ward of the La Crescenta Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reach him at (213) 412-2804.


The Rev. Paige Eaves: I look forward to the day when sexual orientation is no longer a radical issue for football-watching America — the day when CBS will be proud to run the (previously rejected) UCC spot advocating for an inclusive church (radical!), and will accept money to run this silly ad from ManCrunch.com.ManCrunch.com.

Ultimately, CBS has the power in this scenario, and its executives do get to decide what the final Super Bowl Sunday product will look like. It is funny to watch debates that try to establish “principles” for refusing an ad, when really it is about selling stuff and making money. It would be great if CBS acknowledged that “broadcast standards” has nothing to do with principles or quality, and everything to do with marketing to straight males, but if they do not want to market to the gay segment of the 98 million viewers, that’s their game plan. They’ll either score or take the hits.

On “Larry King Live,” a conservative columnist was trying to make the point that football should be a pure and innocent American family pastime, devoid of serious conversation. What if the children started asking questions? God forbid, you might have to talk to the children while the game is on. This assumes that children watching the four-hour extravaganza of beer, soda, car commercials (and also football) are not asking any questions about any of these other all-American values. Maybe they aren’t — maybe their brains are just forming permanent cells of expectation and identity as they absorb the images. I mean, really, do we think that the artful inanity served up by Budweiser and Pepsi is not meant to influence us in some way?

The whole conversation has had a lot of media time, which is fascinating. How did the Super Bowl get so much power over us? My clergy colleagues and I are striving every week to bring you some actual truth about a loving God.

Tune in to some of that power and run with it.--The REV. PAIGE EAVES is pastor of Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church. Reach her at (818) 249-6173, or e-mail pastorpaige@cvumc.org.


The Rev. Bryan Griem: I watch the Super Bowl every year, and I don’t even follow the teams all season like my gridiron fanatic friends. I just want to see the best competitors square off, and I feel a sense of patriotic obligation to contribute my viewer participation in this holiday that rivals Thanksgiving in feasting. It’s the time that I’ll most likely pull out the pigskin, blow off the dust, and toss a few with the boy. I’ll actually sense national pride for this institution that irritates the rest of the world for having the same name as their favorite sport, but being nothing like it.

Then there are the commercials.

What we generally disdain, we look forward to with pickle relish as the game cuts away to sponsors. How creative they’ll be, and how red, white and blue. Remember the Clydesdale commercial where the horses bowed to Ground Zero? Still grabs me. And who watches? Everyone — parents, grandparents and children, all cheering, laughing and enjoying.

Then this commercial that quenches the spirit of the festivities and brings a twisted sexual display into the atmosphere assaults their senses. I’ve seen it, and though it attempts to be humorous, the message is a mess, and the company’s name, Man Crunch, is shameful to repeat, let alone broadcast.

The Super Bowl is as testosterone rich as it can be, and manly men block, blitz and bomb. Adoring women vigorously cheer from the sidelines, and impressionable boys don jerseys bearing their heroes’ numbers.

Imagine then, this commercial comes on where two homosexuals brush hands in the chip bowl and launch into a spooning session complete with pawing? There’s an image for the world to digest!

Rah, rah, rah, becomes raw, raw, raw, and it shouldn’t be — unless that’s the image we want for ourselves.

God help us!--The REV. BRYAN GRIEM is pastor of Montrose Community Church. Reach him at (818) 249-0483.


Jon Barta: My suspicion is that CBS is more motivated by finances than it is by morality, but their motives are their own. And people often make decisions with mixed motives.

Undoubtedly CBS understands the very public message California voters sent the nation by our establishment of Proposition 8. Whatever the case, CBS is right to reject the ad for both commercial and moral reasons. And before we let this homosexual dating website usurp the “moral” high ground, let’s not forget that companies purposely make ads they know will be rejected simply for the sake of free publicity.

The apostle Paul described the moral decline of people and cultures in Romans Chapter 1. It begins with a willful rejection of God’s power, deity and attributes, and a willful refusal to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Those plunging into such foolishness brashly claim they are, in fact, wise.

They worship gods of their own creation, so God gives them over into “the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” The resultant “degrading passions” he lists include homosexual acts.

This he describes as being given over to a “depraved mind.” I know these are difficult words for some to hear, but it’s simply what the Bible says. I invite you to look it up for yourself, and I invite you to find redemption from sin’s penalty in Jesus Christ.

The last thing our nation needs is the broadcast promotion of immorality during what is known to be a family show.

The commercial (I saw it on YouTube) makes light of what the Bible calls “unnatural,” “indecent” and worthy of “due penalty” and uses not-so-subtle, suggestive wording. Not that the GoDaddy ads that have been aired are much better. Advertisers know that “sex sells.” It’s good to know that this year CBS has decided not to sell immoral sex.--JON BARTA is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 845-7871.


The Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale: The issue of whether or not this rejection of a gay dating service advertisement constitutes discrimination is best determined by those with legal training and access to details regarding the network’s history of standards and practices and the quantifiable issues at hand (i.e. precedent, available time slots, financial considerations, program focus, etc.)

With that said, it’s easy enough (even for peripheral sports fans like myself) to pick up on the fact that there is a strong history of sexualized content on Super Bowl Sunday, and that this content is heterosexist in nature.

The religious principles by which I am guided advocate foremost for public and private practices valuing the existence, worth, and dignity of all people — including the hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian and bi-sexual athletes and sports fans who will be watching (wallets at hand).

Those same religious principles also guide me to believe that the issue doesn’t and shouldn’t end there.

As a human family we’d be well served to: 1. Collectively examine the ways in which our society uses/abuses human sexuality in general to promote commercial interests; 2. Work toward the eradication of unrealistic, harmful gender and sex stereotypes, wherever they may appear.--The REV. STEFANIE ETZBACH-DALE is minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills in La Crescenta. Call (818) 248-3954.


The Rev. Amy Pringle: Sure sounds like discrimination.

Especially since, in addition to this year’s “Lola” ad, other ads rejected in recent years were the United Church of Christ’s ad of welcome to the gay community, and ads for other liberal organizations like MoveOn.org and People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals (Washington Post, Jan.uary 27). And especially since CBS will be airing, during this year’s Super Bowl, a pro-life ad sponsored by Focus on the Family.

Yup, sounds like discrimination to me.

I guess they’re allowed to market to their most likely audience, just like anyone else. When I watch “Fight Quest,” I don’t see a lot of tampon commercials, but I don’t think that means that the Discovery Channel hates women.

Maybe CBS figures gay men don’t watch football, or buy any of the things their other sponsors are selling — cars or computers or beer. Maybe pro-life advocates watch more football, and buy more of those things. Could well be true.

I wonder what would happen, if the 4-million-plus gay community were to organize and test that theory, by not watching the Super Bowl this year. I wonder how much that number would go up, if none of their family or friends watched it.

I wonder if my being a supporter of gay rights, and pro-choice, by the way, means that I shouldn’t watch it either. I like beer, and am in the market for both a new car and a new computer this year. I wonder if CBS and its sponsors would miss me. The REV. AMY PRINGLE is rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada. Reach her at (818) 790-3323, ext. 11.


The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian: Does the fact that Super Bowl network CBS rejected an ad from a gay dating website fall into the category of discrimination? I do not believe so.

However, this is not the first time, nor the last, that a group claims discrimination in the face of rejection.

CBS is a business. As such, they are going to make decisions based on what benefits the network. I suppose the fact that the ad was for a gay dating site is secondary to the actuality that CBS is going to make conclusions based on what best represents the Super Bowl program as a whole.

It is an elite slot, and being a part of Super Bowl Sunday does not come easily — as it is known for its exceptional commercials.

We see discrimination and the cry of being discriminated against in many forms, in numerous arenas. We can be discriminated against for our ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or numerous other reasons. I have had times where I have felt discriminated against because of my gender; friends have claimed discrimination based on race. We all experience it at one time or another in life, — but sometimes we are not accurate in our belief that it is discrimination.

I consider it becomes more of a problem when it is a large population of society, and they believe it is because they fall into a certain category, that claims of discrimination are made.

I cannot speak for CBS; I can only imagine with the rest of you what their motives were. My personal opinion, nonetheless, is that it was strictly business and the commercial spot was filled with an ad that the network felt better fit the viewers of the Super Bowl as on a whole. --The REV. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN is a marriage and family therapist at La Vie Counseling Center in Pasadena. Reach her at (626) 351-9616, Ext. 181, or by e-mail at kimberlie.zakarian@gmail.com.

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