In Taking a Stand, Tebow Stands Apart From Peers
Super Bowl ads are widely noted but rarely long-remembered.
But even if Tim Tebow's already famous Super Bowl ad for Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family proves forgettably innocuous, it might leave a sorry legacy: Athletes get burned if they take sides.
Given all of the cable TV air time that needs filling, and the infinite room on the Internet, we might as well hear from athletes on contentious issues such as abortion. Abortion, at least according to a chorus of pro-choice advocates - including the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority - is the thrust of the ad. But we're unlikely to hear from most athletes unless they are heartily endorsing worthy causes that nobody disputes.
It didn't used to be like this. Wilt Chamberlain and Jackie Robinson campaigned for Richard Nixon in 1960 - Robinson regretted it - and Bill Walton was arrested in Vietnam war protests while a star at UCLA. But Nike's Michael Jordan set the norm for modern stars in saying why he wouldn't endorse an African-American Democrat challenging then-U.S. Senator Jesse Helms in Jordan's native North Carolina: "Republicans buy sneakers, too."
Tebow, whose marketability already was uncertain given questions about how well he will fit into the NFL, is obviously willing to risk endorsement deals. So why should the rest of us tell him to pipe down? What if consumers accepted that star athletes weren't born empty marketing vessels?
You might not want to defend to the death their right to speak. But they might have as much to say about issues as Bono, Ted Nugent, Sean Penn or the late Charlton Heston. Or at least be good for as many laughs.