Football Player to Feature in Anti-choice Super Bowl Ad

Using the same "what-if-you-abort-a-future president" meme deployed during the 2008 Presidential campaign, Focus on the Family is purchasing time to air an ad during the Superbowl featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother Pam.    

According to the Huffington Post, the Tebows will share a personal story
centering on the theme "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life."

group isn’t releasing details, but the commercial is likely to be an
anti-abortion message chronicling Pam Tebow’s 1987 pregnancy. After
getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a
recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, said the commercial comes at a time when "families need to be inspired." 

"Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping
families thrive," Daly said. "Focus on the Family is about …
strengthening families by empowering them with the tools they need to
live lives rooted in morals and values."

Thirty-second commercials during the Super Bowl are selling for
between $2.5 million and $2.8 million. Daly said all the funds for the
ad came from a handful of "very generous and committed friends," and
that no money from the group’s general fund was used. 

Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, ended his college career this month with several
NCAA, Southeastern Conference and school records, and two national

He will enter the NFL draft in April.

Tebow has been very involved in his family’s
Christian-based ministry and regularly includes references to Bible passages in his eye black.

During the SEC Championship game, he guided viewers to John 16:33. The week before, in his last home game as a Florida Gator, his eye blacks referenced Hebrews 12:1-2. Tonight, Tebow is playing the final game of his college career in the Sugar Bowl, and he has included one final message beneath his eyes..

What’s wrong with this picture?

It is nothing new for the anti-choice movement to profile or promote athletes in their efforts to limit women’s choices, ranging from football to baseball to basketball. 

But the effort fails the smell test on several levels.  For one thing, Pam Tebow freely made a choice that fit with her own conscience, faith, and calculations of risk, and that is to be celebrated.  It is not a cause for taking away the choices of other women.  The issue is the right of each woman to choose what is best for her and her own family, not to force the choices of Pam Tebow or anyone else on the entire population of women for all time.  

For another we are constantly and increasingly seeing men, men, men (think Stupak, Nelson, the Catholic Bishops, Scott Brown and others) leading the charge to limit women’s choices, not only to abortion, but to birth control.

I like a good competitive sports game as much as anyone else.  However, I find it dangerously ironic that football players, participants in the most aggressively male-centered and violent contact sport in the United States and constantly surrounded by cheerleaders whose job it is to dance and look pretty for the men, feel compelled to tell women what to believe and how to act.  Or is that just an extension of the patriarchal nature of the sport itself?

Finally, if Focus on the Family is so concerned with "inspiring and celebrating the family," then maybe it ought to advertise directly to the anti-choice community urging them to put their political efforts where their mouths are.  The so-called pro-life movement consistently and vociferously works against policies and programs that would support pregnant women and children in need.  For example, as Cristina Page wrote on RH Reality Check:

In 2007, The Children’s Defense Fund published its Congressional
on the best and worst legislators for children. The
organization scored congressmembers votes on many of the policies that help pregnant women decide whether to parent or abort. The votes were on Head Start, increasing the minimum wage, reauthorizing and increasing funding for S-CHIP, increasing funding for children with disabilities, job training, Medicaid funding, helping youth pay for college, and tax-relief for low-income families with children. Based on their votes on these issues, the Children’s Defense Fund ranked 143 congressmembers as ‘the worst” for children. Of the 143 worst
legislators, 100% are pro-life.

I challenge Focus on the Family to a different strategy:

Spend your Super Bowl ad money launching a campaign addressing violence against women, particularly by intimate partners, which, it so happens, rises during pregnancy.  Focus your funding on violence against women by athletes, and the culture of rape. Focus your funding on increasing access to and information on contraceptive methods that can assist all individuals in avoiding unintended pregnancies in the first place.  Focus your money on having athletes call for more compassionate policies addressing the needs of low-income families struggling to survive in this recession.

Or is that too much "fantasy" for football and Focus on the Family to handle?


Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson

  • anotherjen

    The NFL has a ban on “Social cause/issue advocacy advertising (unless otherwise approved in advance by the NFL)”.

    So, theoretically, this ad won’t be aired… but we’ll see who’s side the NFL is on.

  • harry834

    One option is to have our strongly interjected viewpoints spoken out rather than campaigning that this ad be suppressed. Here is contact page for NFL:

    Can’t find the phone number, did a cursory look. Maybe someone else will find.

    The thought occurs to me that this story has behind it a hope to inspire…but inspire to do what? To avoid aborting (even in the face of health/life risk) for the off-chance that your child will grow up to be a Tim Tebow-type success story. Hell of a burden for a mother to put on her child (“I risked my life for you”), but of course the message of this ad and the anti-abortion culture that supports it, is encouraging the mother to have these expectations

    …but can we say that this particular ad will cause women to think this way? Some might argue that we are being sexist, thinking women are so easily influenced by a single ad. The anti-feminist crowd already spreads the idea that feminists believe women are inferior – that women can’t survive or think unless we feminists tell them what to think and not think, or even censor what they might see (though censorship in the First Amendment sense is not taking place here, so no one constitutional rights are on the line).

  • princess-rot

    Irony is not usually an anti’s strong suite. If the mother/whore dichtomy didn’t exist, or abortion was illegal and swept under the carpet, this woman would not be a heroine. She would be just another woman whose decision about her body would be irrelevant compared to the wellbeing of the fetus, like the women who have abortions that she condemns. She’s only getting props from her anti-choice peeps because she was serving her "true" function as a woman, not because she was brave or the bestest mother ever. There’s a lot of anti-choice tales out there about women who died to "give the baybee life zomg". I know it’s cynical, but I find it hard to believe any woman over thirteen years old thinks it’s hardcore to be patted on the head for internalizing misogyny.

  • crowepps

    In my opinion, this ad is aimed at the boys and men in the audience, to influence them to resist their girlfriends consideration of abortion, since the implication is that after the girlfriend raised their kid for 18 years, the men could enjoy showing off their NFL star son.  Haven’t seen the ad, of course, but I would be very surprised if it had anything in it about those potential daddy’s offering marriage or stepping up with child support.  Or, for that matter, preventing the pregnancy in the first place.

  • colleen

    I would be very surprised if it had anything in it about those
    potential daddy’s offering marriage or stepping up with child support. 
    Or, for that matter, preventing the pregnancy in the first place.

     I’m quite sure that were any of those themes in the ad, the NFL would refuse to air it.


    The religious right, the ‘pro-life’ movement and the American conservative movement have an extraordinary ability to make the very concept of male responsibility for ANYTHING disappear in their morality plays. It really shows too.


    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • crowepps

    Certainly a ‘male responsibility’ ad might not fit easily in juxtaposition to the typical beer ad – "Women!  Fun!  Sex!  Male buddies!  Women!"