Not All Athletes are Anti-Choice

Among the building excitement for this weekend’s Super Bowl match between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, the controversy over the Tim Tebow and Focus on the Family anti-choice advertisement also continues to develop. In response to CBS’s plan to broadcast the ad on Sunday, three professional athletes voice their opinions on family and women’s reproductive health in this video from Planned Parenthood

This Planned Parenthood video features former college and professional football player Sean James and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner who assert their commitment to a women’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. The video is positive in its message and doesn’t condemn any perspective regarding abortion, including Mrs. Tebow’s. Both athletes make it clear that the most important issue is respect and trust for women. They each personalize their statements, referring to their mothers and daughters, and hope for a future in which every woman’s decision regarding her family will be respected. “We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters, by trusting women,” says Joyner.

And in a New York Times article, New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita responds to the ad by “standing up for equal rights.” Fujita also makes it clear that while he respects Tim Tebow’s opinion on abortion, he does not share it. “‘The idea of focusing on the family – who wouldn’t agree with that?’ Fujita said. ‘But the means of doing so, he and I might not see eye to eye all the way.’”

Implicit in all three athletes’ statements is respect for a woman’s choice regardless of her ideological views of abortion. Anti-choice rhetoric, for which Focus on the Family is known, however, decidedly disapproves of women making a narrowly defined “wrong” choice. It is for this reason that so many women’s organizations are protesting and petitioning CBS. The Women’s Media Center submitted a protest letter to CBS that identifies why the station should have turned down the ad:

By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.

Fujita also extended support for an ad for a gay dating site that was turned down by CBS for Super Bowl Sunday. The station rejected an advertisement for citing the company’s Standards and Practices guidelines in its reasoning. Action like this only reinforces claims made by groups like the Women’s Media Center. There seems to be an obvious double standard. “The fact that CBS approves the Focus on the Family ad made us think CBS would be approving all spots from advocacy groups. We thought it’d be a slam dunk,” responded’s marketing coordinator Thomas Young.

Despite all of the negativity surrounding the anti-choice advertisement, the messages from Fujita, James, and Joyner to trust women and respect family is important. If the Tebow ad does run this Sunday, perhaps it will encourage families to discuss their own views on abortion and women’s reproductive choices.

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