Super Bowl party policy reversed

big screen TV in churchChurches throughout the country have been given permission by the great and mighty National Football League to use their big screens during next year’s Super Bowl. The concession seems to come after pressure exerted by some national lawmakers (think anti-trust exemption and federal control over the airways) backed up by big newspaper stories.

Here is The Washington Post‘s Jacqueline Salmon reveling in the news pages over the change of policy after the reporter published a big front page takeout on the subject earlier this month:

The NFL, which found itself on the receiving end of protests and controversy after it objected to churches showing the Super Bowl on big-screen televisions, has reversed course and will now permit the viewings.

In a letter to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would not object to “live showings — regardless of screen size — of the Super Bowl” by religious organizations.

In response to questions from Hatch, Goodell said in the letter, dated Feb. 19, the NFL will implement the policy starting with next year’s Super Bowl.

A story in The Washington Post about churches — most of them evangelical — canceling their Super Bowl parties because they were afraid of lawsuits from the NFL if they showed the game on their jumbo screens kicked up a storm of protest on Capitol Hill and among some conservative leaders.

Is the reporter trying to claim in the lead that its stories put the NFL on the wrong end of the debate? Just curious.

As Terry pointed out, this was not a battle between the big bad corporate National Football League and all churches. This was a battle between conservative churches and the big bad corporate National Football League. Is it any coincidence that the senators raising the issue are all members of the Republican Party?

The National Football Association in a letter to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch has agreed to let religious organizations televise the Super Bowl for their congregations on any size television.

Hatch and other senators were outraged by a story in the Washington Post that indicated the NFL objected to churches showing their big game, especially on big screens. Some churches canceled their Super Bowl parties because they were worried about lawsuits.

After the story ran, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., proposed a bill that would give churches the right to show the game and Hatch sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Sen. Specter is probably just mad at the NFL over SpyGate, but it’s worth discussing.

Many of the news reporters are crediting the Post for raising the issue. It should be noted that The Wall Street Journal highlighted the issue on February 2, long before the Post in one of those feature pieces they do so well.

This announcement raises a few questions: Why did the NFL have the policy in the first place? Why were they able to reverse course so quickly? Was it merely the pressure of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah? If that’s all it took, why wasn’t the policy changed sooner?

Last question: will reporters cover next year’s mega-church Super Bowl parties?

Update: A reader sent me a note that pointed out that I failed to mention that Senator Hatch is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And Senator Specter is Jewish. As the reader points out, neither would seem to have great affinity for conservative Protestant congregations, which is a very good point.

However, I think it’s relevant to point out that it is not likely that Hatch and Specter wrote these letters themselves. At least with my experience with Congress, and especially the Senate, it is likely that a member of their staff headed up this effort and the senators just signed off on the idea. I guess the key to this story then could be finding the staff member who has his church’s Super Bowl party cancelled and getting him to talk on the record.

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  • MattK

    This is not a journalism question except that it is a quetion I haven’t seen answered in the three articles I read. I’m not a football fan and I’ve never attended a church that had a communal Super Bowl experience. What is the attraction that some churches have to the Super Bowl? Is it just an attempt to keep people from skipping church to watch the Super Bowl at home? Or are the pastors expecting some kind religious purpose to be served by the NFL? If I knew a pastor who did this Super Bowl thing I eould call him and ask him, but I don’t. So I ask here.

  • Joe Miller

    It is a matter of beer and boobs. If churches sold beer and had half naked women dancing on tables, they would have never questioned their “right” to show the game.

  • Joe W.

    This is really amazing to me! I love to watch football and I did Watch the big game, after I got home from worship services. I just recorded the game.

    Some will do anything to draw or keep people coming through their doors!

  • Sharon D.

    The WSJ article had an odd throw-away line about the NFL concerned that it not be seen as endorsing the Immaculate Conception, which rather gave the impression that Catholic churches are among those concerned about being able to host gigantic, big-screen Super Bowl parties on Sunday morning (screen presumably suspended above altar and crucifix).

    This Catholic had never even heard of churches showing the Super Bowl, and I sincerely doubt any Catholic parishes were involved, just from the fact that the Catholic blogosphere would have been all over it. Raising the question, why do (some) journalists and (nearly all) tv/movie writers drag in Catholic imagery to mean “conservative religious,” no matter how inappropriate to the occasion?