December 14, 2013 in Sports

ESPN will allow religious ad during basketball game

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS – ESPN has reversed course and will 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. After coming under criticism by conservative pundits including Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly, who deemed the rejection part of a secular war on Christmas, ESPN reversed its decision, said Dan Buck, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The ad is scheduled to run today 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 with 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.’ ”

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