An E-Mail Exchange with the NFL

I’ve watched some commentators — Alan Colmes at Fox is among them — question why anyone should care about a little nudity at the Super Bowl.

Other commentators have rebutted them, so I won’t say everything I could, except this:

One reason the Super Bowl grew into such an institution was its sense of, to invent a term, “American-ness.” Watch the Super Bowl, laughing at the funny commercials, rooting for someone, hosting or attending Super Bowl parties — it had all become a celebration of part of what it is to be an American. For that to work, though, the Super Bowl has to reflect things about America that we are proud of. Working hard, competitiveness, doing one’s best — these are qualities the Super Bowl should reflect. Not sleeze.

The issue, therefore, is about a lot more than just the sight of a portion of Janet Jackson’s unremarkable torso. It is about what we are proud of. And we weren’t proud of what we saw Sunday.

I sent an e-mail to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue reflecting some of these thoughts at [email protected]. My e-mail, and his auto-generated response, are below. I also sent an e-mail yesterday to Michael Powell at the FCC at [email protected].

Dear Sir:

PLEASE do something so parents can feel confident about allowing their children to watch the NFL on TV.

I grew up in a family that watched the NFL every Sunday during the season, with almost no exceptions. Some of my fondest memories come from watching those games and rooting for our team, the Steelers.

Before my kids were born I bought them little Terry Bradshaw beanie babies to put in their cribs to start getting them in the spirit of things. Now our oldest is four years old, our twins are three — and if you don’t do something, I won’t be letting them watch NFL football until they are at least old enough to drive.

It isn’t just the stupid “wardrobe malfunction.” That was a cheap publicity stunt. It was the lyrics of those songs and the sexualized gags on some dancers and the ridiculous little underwear the halftime dancers wore. And the commercials. In your house, do monkeys proposition women? I doubt it. And they won’t be doing it in our house, either, even if blocking the sight means we can never watch an NFL game again.

That the NFL did not know about the nudity in advance I can well believe. But if you did not know about the rest of it, you weren’t doing your job.

We’ll be monitoring the situation. I hope we’ll be watching, too, but that’s up to you.

Amy Ridenour


Dear NFL Fan,

Thank you for your comments and interest in the National Football League.

We were extremely disappointed by the MTV-produced halftime show. It was totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show.

The show was offensive, inappropriate and embarrassing to us and our fans.

We will change our policy, our people and our processes for managing the halftime entertainment in the future in order to deal far more effectively with the quality of this aspect of the Super Bowl.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue

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