Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, in case you didn’t know (I had to look it to be sure, so don’t feel bad), and amid all the stories about commercials and the halftime show and, oh yeah, the game itself, is a little story about the National Football League shutting down local church Super Bowl parties (best headline? “Wrath of NFL Smites Parties at Churches”).
It seems churches are running afoul of the NFL’s broadcast copyrights, including the following limitations:
- No unauthorized use of the copyrighted terms (i.e., “Super Bowl”) in promotions.
- No charging admission to watch the Super Bowl™.
- No public showings of the big game on TVs larger than 55 inches.
An exception is made for sports bars and other places that regularly show sporting events.
So what’s a church to do?
Following the rules is probably the safe thing to do. I’m tempted to say churches should buck the law and have their Super Bowl™ party anyway.
It’s plainly obvious that the NFL is being stupid and this is just the latest example of old school giants not understanding the new social- and community-oriented world (and that’s not really anything new, it’s just better and more easily organized). Large gatherings of people eagerly watching the Super Bowl™ and its accompanying commercials should make the NFL, CBS and all the advertisers forking out millions of dollars absolutely giddy. Instead the NFL is worried about not being able to measure that giddiness and therefore translate it into a cash equivalent. So rather than at least helping their advertisers by encouraging more people to watch, they’re screwing over the advertisers by shutting down parties that will easily draw more Super Bowl™ watchers than if the parties are shut down.
So not only is the NFL giving the finger to churches and fans, they’re also giving the finger to their own advertisers. Wow. And we thought church marketing sucked.
I’m tempted to say churches should return the favor and have their parties anyway. But there’s some line about turning the other cheek that seems applicable. And something about obeying the law. Besides, it’s not like this is Christmas and churches are being closed. Or telling people about Jesus is being outlawed. It’s just an event. Granted an event where we could tell people about Jesus, but there are always other methods. This doesn’t seem like the one issue to risk being sued over.
Churches should just find another method. It’s last minute, but maybe there’s a fun way to have a non-Super Bowl™ party or dozens of mini-Super Bowl™ parties that can easily follow the NFL’s rules. Or maybe it’s too late and it’s time to just move on and hope the NFL gets a clue next year.
Update: The NFL has sent out some revised guidelines, trying to minimize the backlash among churches. The guidelines are incredibly vague though, so it’s your best guess as to what they actually mean.