NFL Execs Concerned Over GoDaddy

The National Football League said it was entirely Fox's decision to pull the second airing of a suggestive Super Bowl spot for domain-registration company, although NFL executives also registered their concern with the spot following its initial, and only, airing.

The spot, lampooning both the Janet Jackson half-time reveal of Super Bowl 2004  and the congressional hearings it generated, featured a buxom young woman who has a near wardrobe malfunction while testifying in front of a congressional committee on indecency. One older legislator is shown needing oxygen.

Some game observers, including NFL execs, had immediately wondered why that ad was okay when an Anheuser-Busch ad also lampooning Jackson had been considered inappropriate by the NFL and had been pulled voluntarily by the beer company.

One difference: The NFL didn't know anything about the spot,according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, though he points out that in neither case was it the NFL's decision to pull the spot. The NFL does not control the ads or promos in the game.

Anheuser-Busch approached the league before the game, said McCarthy, and volunteered to show it the ad, which features a backstage worker at last year's half time show opening a beer on Jackson's costume and accidentally tearing it, suggesting his eagerness for a Bud was Jackson's undoing. The NFL let Anheuser-Busch know it didn't think the spot appropriate, and the beer company pulled the ad.

In the case of the spot, which was to have aired twice, Fox made the call, said McCarthy:

Jon Nesvig, president, ad sales, for Fox Broadcasting Company, said in a statement:
"When the spot aired in the first half, it became obvious to us that its content was very much out of step with the tenor set by the other ads and programming broadcast by Fox on Super Bowl Sunday, so Fox made the decision to drop its repeat airing. We understand GoDaddy's disappointment with our decision, but ultimately we are responsible for what our network broadcasts."

Still, the NFL apparently was helpful in pointing out the obvious. McCarthy says a Fox sports person at the game happened to be in the vicinity of some NFL executives after the commercial's first airing and before its planned second. Those executives registered their concerns, he says.

While the NFL is making it clear that the decision to pull the ads was made by others--McCarthy would not comment on whether the league applauded the decision to pull the spot--the subtext is that, while the NFL does not control the ads, it is reasserting its control over the brand, including putting its name prominently on the half-time show.

In conversations with rightsholders (who want to remain rightsholders) and advertisers over the last few months, the league has made it clear that it wants its entire games--ads, entertainment and football--to be family and FCC-friendly.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.