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NCAA drops Focus on the Family ad from Web site

INDIANAPOLIS - March Madness might have gotten a little less mad this year. (Mad as in the wacked-out, crazy kind of way, or in the angry, bitter kind of way, depending upon which side you are on.)

Story on the street this week is that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has removed an advertisement for a highly controversial evangelist group from their Web site, just in time for the popular March series of college championship basketball games.

Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based, conservative Christian group, made headlines last month after CBS allowed them to run a 30-second pro-choice advertisement during the Super Bowl - an ad that featured popular Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother. Protests against the ad began weeks before the Super Bowl and the controversy didn't wane, even after the ad finally made its appearance.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said in a story published Wednesday on the Huffington Post that the decision to pull the ad on their Web site was based not on the message, but on the messenger.

Faculty and athletic members of the NCAA responded to the placement of the ad, voicing concern and noting that the NCAA's policy of inclusion - regardless of sexual orientation - was in direct conflict with the conservative group's widely publicized stances.

The ad did not make any references to sexual orientation; instead it included the slogan, "Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life." CBS maintains the NCAA Web site, and the ad was included as part of CBS's Super Bowl contract.

Williams said that according to NCAA standards, advertisers "should generally be supportive of NCAA values and attributes and/or not conflict with the NCAA's mission and fundamental principles." This policy allows them to exclude ads or advertisers that are incongruent with the standard.

Although overall, the ad's message raised no red flags initially, the ad's slogan is meant to be anti-abortion and their reference to "celebrating family" is widely known to not include same-sex families.

"It's not the right image or role for the NCAA to be endorsing an organization that has extreme right-wing Christian political mission," said Pat Griffin, retired University of Massachusetts Amherst professor and consultant to the NCAA on gay and lesbian issues.

"It's one thing for CBS to accept such an ad, but its different for the NCAA," she said.

Whether or not any ads will run during the games is yet to be seen, but if this move by the NCAA is any indication, the expectation is that none will run. First round of the NCAA championships will begin March 16.

Morgan Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, x710 or at morgan@sdgln.com.