January 26, 2010 6:10 PM
The University of Florida campus is slowly catching wind of Tim Tebow’s decision to star in a Super Bowl ad slated to air on CBS on Feb. 7, and some say the ad’s message is bound to spark controversy.
The ad spot was purchased by Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization that places emphasis on marriage and parenthood.
The Associated Press reported this week that the ad’s theme will be “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” with Pam Tebow sharing the story of her difficult 1987 pregnancy -- instead of getting an abortion she decided to give birth to Tebow, the now-famous quarterback who went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner, leading the Gators to two BCS wins.
Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family spokesman, told ABC News he couldn’t comment on the content of the ad. However, he said his organization has always viewed the Tebows as “strong, committed Christians” who have inspirational family stories to tell.
“It seemed like a natural partnership, and we were fortunate enough that they agreed,” Schneeberger said.
CBS is reportedly selling Super Bowl ads for around $2.5 million to $2.8 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a company that tracks ad spending.
“Once we explained what we were hoping to accomplish, a strong handful of committed friends provided funding for the airtime,” Schneeberger said. He said he has seen the ad, and he would not label it as political or controversial.
“Our goal is to create awareness for who we are as a family-help ministry and help folks who are watching come to us if they’re struggling in their marriage or struggling raising their children,” he said.
Tebow’s decision to play a role in an ad sponsored by a conservative group suggets he'll take a political stance.
“It’s a big coming-out party for Tim Tebow in terms of moving from athletic superstar to the political realm,” said Daniel Smith, UF associate professor of political science and faculty adviser to Gators for Choice.
Once the ad airs on national television, it might cause some interesting discussions on college campuses while also rallying the pro-choice community, Smith added. The commercial's content might also have an effect on Tebow’s fan base.
“When you are an athlete and you put yourself out in the public sphere when it comes to politics, you have a good chance of alienating half your fan support,” Smith said.
He noted Tebow wasn't political while he was a collegiate athlete. For example in 2008 Tebow chose not to endorse a presidential candidate. Also, Smith pointed out that many of Tebow’s eye black biblical verses promoted generic positive thinking rather than polarizing statements.
“Whoever wants to pay for an ad during the Super Bowl should be able to do so,” he said. “It’s more interesting that Focus on the Family was able to convince Tim Tebow to promote their organization and their issues.”
Camille Jacobs, a UF junior and member of Campus Crusade for Christ, said she was excited to hear that Tebow has this opportunity.
“He’s just standing up for what he believes in,” Jacobs said, “and no matter what you believe in, it’s going to be controversial.”
She said students of the Gator Nation will probably be behind him “whether they’re Christian or not.”
“He wouldn’t say things just because it kind of sounds good or will stir up trouble,” she said. “People know he’s speaking straight from the heart.”
Karen Middlekauff, a UF law student and the president of Outlaw, an organization for College of Law LGBT students, said she believes that Tebow is still a representative of UF, and he has chosen to represent a viewpoint that shouldn’t be associated with the university.
“Focus on the Family is a very well-known group for speaking out against LGBT issues,” she said. “A lot of people know that.”
The commercial is also highlights the strength of Tebow’s religious beliefs, something the general public may not be aware of, she said.
“The UF community itself knows that he is very religious and he’s done a lot of humanitarian work,” Middlekauff said. “I don’t know if the public knows that. They’ll know after this.”
AC Stokes, the UF director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said Tebow is probably aware that he is being used for a political purpose and that he will now be associated with Focus on the Family’s viewpoints.
“I got a call from an alumnus that was pretty outraged by the fact that Tim Tebow was going to be in this commercial,” Stokes said.
Ben Anderson, president of UF Christian Campus House activities, however, released a statement saying that the advertisement has a deeper message: “I find it interesting that this ad would receive controversy, when in fact it is simply an amazing story of a mother and child overcoming the odds against them. Would there be controversy if the story were being told by a mother and child not publicly proclaiming Christ? I do not know, but I suspect not as much.”
CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said CBS has reviewed the ad script, but she was unable to confirm if CBS employees have viewed the actual commercial.
She said the script met CBS’s standards.
CBS also released a statement that read: “Our standards and practices process continues to adhere to a policy that ensures all ads, on all sides of an issue, are appropriate for air."