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Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad: a Pandora’s box for TV sports?

Now accepting advocacy ads that hew to evolving ‘norms,’ CBS reverses its previous policy and shakes up Super Bowl Sunday. The flip side: Events from Super Sunday to the Daytona 500 could become a parade of in-your-face social commentary.

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A three-hour break from politics

TV networks have, of course, long aired advocacy ads, but the brouhaha over the Super Bowl broadcast is, in the end, largely cultural. It's the three hours when America collectively leaves behind the topsy-turvy world of American society and politics to focus on guys throwing footballs and to watch funny commercials filling up the multitude of timeouts and breaks.
 
"For it, against it, I don't care what you are," writes columnist Gregg Doyel at CBS Sports, bemoaning his employer's stance-change. "On Super Sunday, I don't care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion."
 
Nevertheless, partisan politics and the economics of the media business are conspiring to change the feeling of game day, even beyond the Super Bowl.

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After CBS's decision, which is being closely watched by the other networks, events like the Master’s, the Olympics (200 million people could watch, NBC projects), and the Daytona 500 could all become targets of advocacy groups looking for a massive and rapt audience.
 
Last week’s Citizens United ruling by the US Supreme Court – that corporations are entitled to individual free speech in the form of campaign spending – could also bring political ads to baseball, football, and basketball games during campaign seasons.

Not everyone thinks that's a bad idea.
 
“[Advocacy ads during the Super Bowl] aren't necessarily a bad thing,” argues Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York. “One of the things about the Super Bowl is that the commercials are as interesting as the game, and this could go that way, as well.”

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