Jan. 26, 2010— -- He was the first sophomore in history to win a Heisman trophy. He was the first college football player both to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Last year, he led his college team, the Florida Gators, to their second national championship in three years. At 6 feet 3 inches and 245 pounds, Tim Tebow may go down in history as the greatest college football player who ever lived.
And to think none of that would have happened if not for a decision his mother made nearly 23 years ago.
That is the message of a controversial new ad starring Tebow and his mother, Pam. Paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, the ad tells the story of Bob and Pam Tebow, who was pregnant with their fifth child when the couple travelled to the Philippines on a missionary trip.
While there, Pam contracted amoebic dysentery and the medicines used for her recovery threatened her unborn fetus. Doctors advised her to abort the fetus. Pam ignored their advice and gave birth on Aug. 14, 1987, to a baby boy. That boy was Tim Tebow.
Now arguably the highest profile player in college football for the past several years, Tebow cites his mother's decision as a key reason he chose to participate in the Focus on the Family ad, which created a mild uproar after CBS agreed to air it on Super Bowl Sunday.
"I know some people won't agree with it," said Tebow of the 30-second ad at a press conference in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday, in preparation for next weekend's Senior Bowl. "But I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe. I've always been very convicted of [his views on abortion] because that's the reason I'm here, because my mom was a very courageous woman."
Tebow has long been open about his strong Christian beliefs and family values. Focus on the Family says the ad will highlight the theme "Celebrate family, celebrate life."
The spot will mark a departure for the Super Bowl, which draws the largest TV audience every year and usually has commercials featuring dancing lizards or fortune-telling snow globes.
The major television networks have previously declined to air polarizing advocacy ads. In 2004, CBS and its competitors rejected an ad by the United Church of Christ, welcoming gays and others who may have felt felt snubbed by more conservative churches. At the time, CBS was heavily criticized. It says that in recent months, it has run more issue-oriented advertising, such as ones for health care.
Firestorm or Tempest in a Teapot?
Gary Schneeberger, a spokesperson from Focus on the Family told ABC News he was puzzled over the controversy surrounding the ad.
"There is nothing political or controversial about the spot. It's a personal story about the love between a mother and son," he said.
But a national coalition of women's groups is calling on CBS not to air the ad.
"This campaign is about holding CBS and the NFL and the other Super Bowl advertisers accountable," said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center, "for inserting an exceedingly controversial issue into a place where we all hope Americans will be united, not divided, in terms of watching America's most-watched sporting event."
A spokesperson for CBS told the Associated Press that the network had approved the script for the ad and that it would ensure that any issue-oriented ad was "appropriate for air."
In a statement this afternoon the network said: "At CBS, our standards and practices process continues to adhere to a process that ensures all ads -- on all sides of an issue -- are appropriate for air. We will continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups for the few remaining spots in Super Bowl XLIV."
The ad has not been released publicly, but a source at CBS tells ABC News that the the words "abortion" and "pro-life" do not appear anywhere in the ad.
A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl is a highly-coveted advertising spot, with CBS selling its spots in this year's Super Bowl for $2.5 to $2.8 million. Despite an ailing economy, CBS is close to selling out its 62 ad spots for the broadcast, according to a USA Today report earlier this month.
However, CBS will not be counting on its usually reliable sponsors, with big companies such as General Motors, Pepsico and Fedex staying away from the Super Bowl, according to a study by ad researcher TNS Media Intelligence.
"CBS is doing this for the money," said Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein School of Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "It will indicate that a policy has changed. The networks have traditionally not put these kinds of ads on during the Super Bowl. This has been an area that has been kept relatively squeaky-clean of highly-polarizing politics. There is no way to be putting in an anti-abortion ad without prompting the pro-abortion side of the debate to get their message across. This may be a new profit center."
A Highly Coveted Spot
The ad would not be the first spot purchased by Focus on the Family. In 2005, the group purchased an ad spot during the show "Supernanny."
At the time, the group said that the show was all about Focus on the Family principles. "It was boundaries and using the time-out chair, respect for authority and good parenting skills," said Jim Daly, the group's president and CEO.
"This ad is frankly offensive, " said Erin Matson, the Action Vice President of the National Organization for Women, speaking of the Tebow commercial. "It is hate masquerading as love. It sends a message that abortion is always a mistake."
And then there's the matter of the ad airing on Super Bowl Sunday.
"If you're a sports fan, and I am, that's the holiest day of the year," wrote Gregg Doyel of CBSsports.com. "It's not a day to discuss abortion. For it, or against it, I don't care what you are. On Super Bowl Sunday, I don't care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion."
What's your take on the matter? Do you think CBS should air the ad? Leave us a comment!