The National Football League (NFL) has ordered Fall Creek Baptist Church to cancel their Super Bowl viewing party on the grounds that the church used its trademark name in their promotions in addition to the church’s plan to charge a fee to attend.
The church, located in Indianapolis, hometown of the Colts who are playing in the championship game, had planned on projecting the game on a 12-foot-wide screen to their congregation as well as anyone interested.
Originally, Fall Creek had promoted the event as a “Super Bowl Bash” on their church website, which the NFL officials came across. The league sent an overnight FedEx immediately to the church’s pastor, John D. Newland, instructing them to terminate the event.
Newland responded to the association by noting that they were not charging attendance fee. The money was to help pay for snacks. He also promised to remove the words “Super Bowl” from his promotion in an attempt to still show the game.
The NFL refused the offer, however, stating that the church cannot project the game onto such a large screen. They may only hold the event if they use a TV no bigger than 55 inches.
The church will most likely call off the event.
"For us to have all our congregation huddled around a TV that is big enough only for 10 or 12 people to watch just makes little sense," said Newland to the Indianapolis Star.
Besides the mentioned faults, the NFL also went on to ban the church’s plan to affect nonmembers with a tape emphasizing the Christian testimonies of Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, coaches of the Colts and Bears, respectively.
"While this may be a noble message," NFL assistant counsel Rachel L. Margolies wrote in a follow-up email, "we are consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content."
Many have criticized the officials for not simply overlooking the event. They argue that the NFL is being unreasonable, only trying to boost their Nielson ratings.
"We have contracts with our [TV] networks to provide free over-the-air television for people at home," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "The network economics are based on television ratings and at-home viewing. Out-of-home viewing is not measured by Nielsen."