In a move likely to fuel debate over Tim Tebow’s mixing of religion and football, the Christian advocacy group behind a Super Bowl spot starring the NFL quarterback returned to the airwaves as he played Saturday on CBS. The latest spot from Focus on the Family did not feature Tebow. Instead, it showed children reciting Bible verse John 3:16. Tebow has been associated with the passage.
The 30-second spot aired during the second quarter of the Denver-New England playoff game, just after the Patriots extended their lead against Tebow’s Broncos. The children reciting the Bible verse appeared against the same type of white background that Tebow and his mom did during the 2010 Super Bowl ad, which offered a pro-life message, and also ran on CBS.
Tebow wore “John 3:16” on his eye black during the 2009 BCS Championship Game when he played at the University of Florida. He is vocal about his Christian beliefs and drops to a knee and prays publicly in uniform.
His public expressions have sparked considerable discussion since he unexpectedly led the Broncos to a string of victories during the season and a win in the team’s first playoff game earlier this month. In the playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he threw for 316 yards, leading some to invoke the Bible verse.
Regarding Saturday's prime-time ad, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly stated: "For Christians, the verse is the essence of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and when you have good news you want to share it with as many people as possible.”
The organization said the money to buy the spot came from donors -- not general operating funds. That was also the case with the Super Bowl ad. It did not say how much it paid. Focus on the Family reported $102 million in contributions in 2010, down from $126 million in 2009.
Focus on the Family founder and chairman emeritus James Dobson has been a vocal pro-life and anti-gay marriage advocate.
Networks have veered against airing so-called advocacy ads. But as questions arose about why CBS accepted the Super Bowl spot, The New York Times reported CBS “changed its policy in 2008 to accept ads that sell opinions rather than products.” The paper quoted a CBS representative saying the network would “consider responsibly produced ads” from advocacy interests if “appropriate for air.”
Almost immediately after the ad aired on Saturday, Twitter activity percolated with various viewpoints.