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Fox rejects John 3:16 Super Bowl ad, considers it controversial

By Shirley Evans
February 6th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There are no preachers or ministers in the ad, no church or even a cross. The ad shows sports fans wondering aloud what the phrase "John 3:16" painted on a football player's eye black could mean, followed by a simple response: look it up.

BIRMINGHAM, AL (Catholic Online) - Millions of dollars are made every year off the sale of 30-second Super Bowl commercial slots. These ads are frequently out-of-the-ordinary, hilarious, controversial or even downright depraved.  This year, however, Fox Sports has labeled one seemingly innocuous Super Bowl ad as "religious doctrine" and much too offensive to be aired.

What indoctrinating language or insulting image could be depicted in this ad? None. This ad is banned simply because the commonly repeated Bible verse, John 3:16, is its premise. There are no preachers or ministers in the ad, no church or even a cross. The 30-second spot shows sports fans wondering aloud what the phrase "John 3:16" painted on a football player's eye black could mean, followed by a simple response: look it up. The viewer is then shown the Web address www.lookup316.com.

Many football players have written notes on the black smudges under their eyes, originally meant to block the glare of sunlight off of sweaty faces. Sometimes the eye blacks bear team logos, short notes to loved ones or, in the most recognizable case of University of Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, Bible verses.

John 3:16 contains the core of Christian faith: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible verse may not even understand the reference. Those that are familiar with it may or may not choose to visit the website, but no one is informed of its meaning during the commercial. However, Fox Sports has decided that the mere existence of this phrase is enough to warrant banning the ad from the Super Bowl.

The John 3:16 commercial was produced by Fixed Point, a religious advocacy group based in Birmingham, Alabama. The group was set to pay about $3 million to have the ad aired on Fox Sports during the Super Bowl this Sunday, which will reach over 100 million viewers.

Religious leaders have expressed disappointment and confusion, especially since Fox commercials tend to be riddled with profanity and offensive images. Ads in the past have shown men kissing each other and scantily-clad women, among other sexually suggestive imagery.

However, the message of John 3:16 will get to the public regardless of Fox's views. Since the ban, Fixed Point has purchased local TV commercial spots in Alabama. The commercial will not air in other states, but is circulating quickly over the internet.

For a company that bills itself as "fair and balanced," Fox's actions seem to tip the scale in one definitive direction.

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