ESPN reverses course to allow Catholic group to air ad heralding birth of Christ

ESPN has reversed course and will now allow a Catholic charity to air a television ad heralding the birth of Christ during a college basketball game this weekend, officials said. The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation in St. Louis produced a 30-second spot asking viewers to write holiday messages to sick children. The ad seeks to […]

ESPN has reversed course and will now allow a Catholic charity to air a television ad heralding the birth of Christ during a college basketball game this weekend, officials said.

The Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation in St. Louis produced a 30-second spot asking viewers to write holiday messages to sick children. The ad seeks to “help us reveal God’s healing presence this Christmas” and notes that the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Center “celebrate(s) the birth of Jesus and the season of giving.”

The foundation helps support the teaching hospital financially.

The cable sports network initially rejected the ad last week, saying it didn’t meet its advocacy standards, and it asked the charity for an alternative version, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. However after coming under criticism by conservative pundits including Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly, who deemed the rejection part of a so-called secular war on Christmas, ESPN reversed its decision, said Dan Buck, the non-profit foundation’s executive director.

The ad is scheduled to run Saturday on ESPNU during a basketball game between Virginia Commonwealth and Northern Iowa. The Missouri Valley Conference, which works with the charity, donated the air time.

Buck said ESPN’s vice-president of communications, Josh Krulewitz, told him by phone Thursday that the ad could air.

“He said: ‘We decided to take a harder look and it is well within the standards. We apologize for the mix-up,'” Buck said of his conversation Krulewitz. “I said: ‘I appreciate you making the right decision. America will be happy you made the right decision, and I’m sorry it came to this.'”

Krulewitz provided a similar explanation to the newspaper.

“This decision is consistent with our practice of individual review of all ads under our commercial advocacy standards,” he said.

Buck said the ad has been broadcast on local stations without incident. He said the message didn’t advocate Christianity but was “simply professing our faith. … We celebrate our mission. It’s the core of who we are.”

Before ESPN’s reversal, the foundation provided an alternative version containing no holiday message but instead focusing on Cardinal Glennon’s work treating children’s heart conditions.

Media Articles

Facebook discloses error on instant articles

comScore finds that iPhone traffic went under-reported for approximately two months

Yahoo faces possible Canadian class action suit

$50-million filing made Friday over compromised user info

The List: Maxus Canada makes a winning change

How a new structure helped propel the media agency to 18% growth in 2016

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

Amazon brings its video streaming service to Canada

Prime members get access to 'Transparent', 'The Grand Tour' and more

How we can close advertising’s biggest gap

AOL's David Shing on how companies can bring more empathy to advertising

The List: Wattpad’s evolving influence

The first of our selections for the biggest newsmakers of 2016

The case for companies staying off social media

It takes real commitment and, for many, it's just not worth the trouble

KitchenAid’s gingerbread social spectacle

A social media strategy for the holiday season pops up in Toronto