Yesterday, sports blogger and former University of Massachusetts professor Pat Griffin reported that, tucked among the banner ads for Coke Zero, Outback Steak House, Wendy’s and Enterprise Car Rental on the corporate website of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA.com) was an ad for Focus on the Family (FoF).
By early afternoon today, the FoF ads had been removed from NCAA.com–at least from the website, and at least for now. But as we approach the frenzy of collegiate basketball playoffs knowns as March Madness, the question remains whether CBS will be running these ads during these games as they did during the Superbowl.
Griffin is the former director of It Takes A Team, an education and advocacy project addressing LGBT issues in sport. She wrote: "I hear that CBS, the network that brought us the Focus on the Family
Super Bowl ad, is also covering the Men’s NCAA Tournament, and plan[s] to
air these ads throughout the tournament with the complete complicity,
consent and support of the NCAA."
"We cannot let this stand."
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Focus on the Family is a right-wing Christian political organization
that not only opposes a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have
an abortion, they also are one of the most powerful national opponents
of civil rights for LGBT people. You can bet they are in the forefront
of every national and state battle over LGBT rights and abortion
rights. Now they want to impose their values on the NCAA tournament and
college basketball fans and the NCAA and CBS are inviting them to. They
are rolling out the red carpet and I am deeply offended by the NCAA’s
complicity in this.
The NCAA is the most prominent national
governing body for intercollegiate athletics for women and men. The
NCAA constitutional principles include an explicit prohibition on
discrimination based on sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay
student-athletes, coaches, and administrators are a significant part of
the NCAA’s membership. Women are a significant part of the NCAA on all
levels. Many of the individual institutions that belong to the NCAA
have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Yet the NCAA apparently thinks it is just fine to support an anti-gay
This is an outrageous slap in the face to every LGBT person and
their allies in athletics and to all other people who believe in a
woman’s right to choose who are associated with the NCAA.
A post by a former NCAA athlete on Mombian, a website for lesbian mothers, notes that "NCAA.com is in fact run in partnership with CBSsports.com. It is
focused on competition news and is a more commercial site than the
organization’s corporate site, NCAA.org. I imagine that it is CBS that
manages advertising on NCAA.com, as it does for television broadcasts.
Regardless, the site uses the NCAA name and is clearly run with NCAA
Yet as Griffin notes in another post on this issue, "running the Focus on the Family ads
is in complete violation of the [NCAA] standards" for advertising.
A few excerpts from
the standards provided by Griffin:
The NCAA’s advertising and promotional standards
are designed to encourage those advertisements and advertisers that
support the NCAA’s ideals and exclude those advertisements and
advertisers (and others who wish to associate with NCAA activities)
that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education and
The NCAA strives to be associated with entities and messages that:
Support diversity, gender equity, nondiscrimination, physical fitness,
healthy behaviors, youth development, sportsmanship, ethical conduct,
academic standards, student-athlete welfare and amateurism.
NCAA believes, at a minimum, that advertisements, advertisers and others who wish to be associated with NCAA events should not:
• Cause harm to student-athlete health, safety and welfare.
• Bring discredit to the purposes, values or principles of the NCAA.
• Negatively impact the best interests of intercollegiate athletics or higher education.
the examples of ads that are "impermissable" according to the NCAA
Standards, writes Griffin, "are "Advocacy of viewpoints on controversial issues of public
importance (e.g., religious beliefs, political beliefs).""
"The NCAA cannot have it both ways," said Griffin.
"They cannot claim to care about the
quality of the athletic experience for LGBT student-athletes and
provide educational programs to assist schools in making sure that LGBT
student-athletes can compete with respect and dignity and allow Focus
on Family to use the NCAA web site and men’s basketball tournament to
promote their discriminatory right-wing Christian agenda."
Besides, she continues,
"why on earth would the NCAA want to get involved in this controversial
mess when it will only draw attention away from basketball and embroil
the NCAA in an ugly public culture war battle. That is a question, I
cannot answer, but we sure can make sure their decision is a painful
So will NCAA.com and the NCAA be airing these ads during March Madness games? It is not yet clear. "The ad deal is not confirmed," according to Towleroad," but the report is troubling."
At least for now, however, it does seem the organization is in fact trying to "go both ways" so to speak with CBS and Focus on the Family.
Is this happening under pressure from CBS? If so, why is CBS suddenly the home broadcasting network for a far-right Christian organization that advocates making homosexuality illegal and is seeking to abrogate women’s basic human rights? And how does NCAA square this with its own stated guidelines and respect for diversity?
As of publication of this article, calls to the public relations office of the NCAA have not yet been returned. We will update after speaking to NCAA.