Television

NFL vs. Jesus Christ

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And Jesus didn't cover. Redeemer? Not this week.

An Indianapolis church has run afoul of the NFL's bone-crushing lawyers. The league has shut down Fall Creek Baptist Church's planned Super Bowl party primarily because, it seems, the church was going to attract too many "out-of-home" eyeballs.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello explains that the NFL's deal with TV networks depends on Nielsen being able to measure at-home viewers. Too many out-of-home viewers means the nets get bad numbers, ad rates fall, checks bounce, and End Times are upon us. This is why the church's planned use of an on-wall projector—a low-cost way to present a 100-inch or more "screen" to large groups—is Original Sin for the NFL.

In fact, the NFL maintains it is illegal for anyone to display the game on a screen larger than 55 inches. This means, for one, there are many thousands of copyright violators out there in America's recently updated home theaters. League spokesman Aiello says the NFL does make an exception for sports bars and other venues which routinely show televised sports, but as for the ad hoc viewing party—woe unto you.

Church pastor John Newland makes an interesting point about how the NFL's stance skews America's Super Bowl experience, the Indy Star:

"It just frustrates me that most of the places where crowds are going to gather to watch this game are going to be places that are filled with alcohol and other things that are inappropriate for children," Newland said. "We tried to provide an alternative to that and were shut down."

Even those of us who think sundering the holy link between alcohol and the Super Bowl is blasphemy can see that the NFL is not on a righteous path here. Anything that makes the Super Bowl more of an event accrues to the NFL. A few dozen churchy Colts fans cannot possibly dent the massive appeal and massive profits of America's secular winter festival.

They know not what they do.

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  1. This is about as ham-fisted as MLB going exclusive on their Extra Innings package with DirecTV. What planet do major league sports execs live on, anyway?

  2. They should just show the superbowl anyway, and let the NFL sue. I don’t think the NFL has the guts to do it.

  3. I love it, especially since so many NFL players are lip-service bible-thumping Christians.

    “It just frustrates me that most of the places where crowds are going to gather to watch this game are going to be places that are filled with alcohol and other things that are inappropriate for children,” Newland said. “We tried to provide an alternative to that and were shut down.”

    Um, yeah, who says football should be kid-friendly? Mutants on ‘roids slamming into each other with intent to injure, scantily clad cheerleaders, beer commercials every couple minutes … perfect for the little ones!

  4. I was going to grumble about how stupid and counterproductive this was for the NFL until I noticed the return of Reason Pillow Girl and realized that all is right in the world after all.

  5. “This is about as ham-fisted as MLB going exclusive on their Extra Innings package with DirecTV. What planet do major league sports execs live on, anyway?”

    The same one that the **AA and M$ execs live on.

  6. Stupid and incompetent as it is, what’s wrong with the NFL enforcing its property rights and maximizing its profits, from the libertarian perspective?

  7. this is confusing and I don’t know where I stand…

    Go Bears!

  8. So, um, where is it written that it’s illegal to have a bunch of people watching something on a big TV?

  9. Stupid and incompetent as it is, what’s wrong with the NFL enforcing its property rights and maximizing its profits, from the libertarian perspective?

    Nothing. Nobody is advocating that anybody do anything. It’s just stupid and interesting. Not everything written is a call to action.

  10. I just wanted to compliment Jeff Taylor on the vocabulary in this piece which almost brought tears of nostalgia to the eyes of this old atheist who spent his youth under the spell of the Churches of Christ.
    I was especially touched by “sundering.” Hadn’t heard that one since “raiment” or “filthy lucre.”
    You go Brother Taylor!

  11. BTW, I’m aware that it’s illegal to profit from somebody else’s copyrighted material. I doubt the church is profiting from a Super Bowl party.

    Now, sports bars, OTOH….

  12. NFL vs. Jesus… GO NFL!! Jesus is to skinny to play football anyway.

  13. Adritch, I beg to differ.

    Jesus would make a great quarterback. Talk about your Hail Mary passes.

    He’d make a good wide receiver too. Who better to make those immaculate receptions?

  14. Anyone else remember that old country song, Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through The Goal Posts Of Life?

  15. I agree with sean B. I do think the church should do it anyway. I don’t think the NFL has the guts or stupidity to sue a church.

    “”Stupid and incompetent as it is, what’s wrong with the NFL enforcing its property rights and maximizing its profits, from the libertarian perspective?”””

    It’s not really a property rights issue, they are pretending it is. The NFL will not lose one dime or any “property” because a large number of people met in one location to view the game in real time instead of their own house or smaller groups. That’s why bars are exempt.

    1. Since they are not losing money, or property, there is no real issue.

    2. The NFL does not have a right to dictate to a homeowner how many people can be allowed at a Superbowl party, nor regulate the size of a TV the consumers wish to buy.

    3. The NFL does have a copyright, which prevents people from taping the show and viewing it or “rebroadcasting” at a later time. That is their property right.

    I have never heard of the record industry claiming they have a right to regulate the # of people at your house while you listen to music, nor the size of speakers on which you play it.

  16. Chicago (the city, park district, I don’t know) wanted to host a Super Bowl party at Soldier Field. They were going to charge admission, give the proceeds to charity and show the game on the jumbotron screens. The NFL put the kibosh on that, too. They gave the same reason. Nothing about charging for the game, just that they won’t allow any sort of gathering that large to watch it.
    I thought that the United Center hosted a free party to watch the playoff game a couple weeks ago. Maybe I’m wrong.

  17. Where are the SWAT teams when ya need em?

  18. But Nielson probably doesn’t even measure anyone at that particular church. Even so, couldn’t they just ask any Nielson families just leave their TVs on at home, thus making everyone happy?

  19. NFL vs. Jesus

    Jesus lost. So much for being a christian nation dumbass.

  20. He’d make a good wide receiver too. Who better to make those immaculate receptions?

    Not in those clunky sandals.

  21. sean b, you got that right. They don’t even have to be confrontational about it, just show it anyway.

  22. I have never heard of the record industry claiming they have a right to regulate the # of people at your house while you listen to music, nor the size of speakers on which you play it.

    Yet. 🙂

  23. I have never heard of the record industry claiming they have a right to regulate the # of people at your house while you listen to music, nor the size of speakers on which you play it.

    Ha – try playing albums you own (or thought you owned, anyway) at a bar you own. You will quickly discover that the record industry claims that you don’t have the right to do that. Never mind that the album you bought had no conditions associated with it, not even any fine print, and you sure didn’t sign any contract when you bought it. This is recording industry magic!

  24. “It just frustrates me that most of the places where crowds are going to gather to watch this game are going to be places that are filled with alcohol and other things that are inappropriate for children,”

    It’s alcohol and inappropriate things that pay the bills for the NFL.

    Churches do not buy ad time.

  25. Now, sports bars, OTOH….

    Pay the bills and thus get an exemption?

  26. Football versus Christianity. The two biggest religions in Texas fight it out.

  27. What about guns? I thought guns were #2?

  28. The NFL is certainly within its rights to protest when venues charge admission to view their broadcasts, or transmissions via cable and/or premium channels. The limits on the size of the screen seem like the sort of crap that the Betamax case settled, and that the RIAA and the MPAA are trying to unsettle for newer devices.

    I think the league and the nets are missing a trick here. For years, the TV execs have complained that Nielsen underestimates audience size by not counting folks who watch in common rooms at college dorms, in bars, airport lounges, etc. They would be better off demanding that the ratings take group watching into account, and use the Super Bowl parties as a cause c?l?bre. The various Official Sponsors could provide the party hosts with decorations suitably emblazoned with their logos, and discounts on refreshments. NFL Charities and/or the United Way could get involved.

    Of course, the advertisers might have research that shows that the ads don’t get as much attention in a big venue as they do in one’s living room, so they might still prefer we watch the game in our homes.

    Kevin

  29. In some ways it kind of counter-productive isn’t it? A lot of casual fans probably wouldn’t sit through a whole superbowl if they were just sitting by themselves at home. At a party, on the other hand, no one will dare to change the channel so everyone is trapped to watch all the commercials. More parties = more eyes. Why are they against this? Because of inaccurate Nielsen ratings?

  30. All Catholic schools in Indiana are closing on Feb. 5, by order of the Archbishop of Indianapolis. Apparently this is to honor the Colts, whether they win or lose. Jesus is trying to win over the NFL, he’s just not doing a very good job.

  31. I can’t believe I am saying this but I am going for the church. I think they have the right to peacably assemble and watch whatever they want.

    Illegal to watch TV on a 56 inch TV versus a 55 inch TV? Well then, fuck the NFL. If the NFL is going to act like a bunch of cheap pricks, I just won’t watch their stupid game.

  32. 55″ is the limit for commercial establishments. You’re free to have
    a jumbotron in your living room (assuming you can afford it)

  33. If the NFL is going to broadcast their game into my house without my permission, I’m going to do whatever I damn well please with their signal.

  34. They can’t stop the signal!

    *just watched Serenity*

  35. Does anyone else remember the fuss about ten years ago when ASCAP got an injunction against the Girl Scouts for using “The Macarena” at camp without paying for it? As I recall, an NFL player paid the user fee. (May have been NBA; it was some professional athlete.) Anyway, I don’t recall that incident earning much good will for the musicians and I just don’t see much good coming from the NFL trying to shut the church’s party down, either. If I had a big enough house, I could invite the entire neighborhood over and no one would complain. Heck, up until the Longhorns played in the Rose Bowl last year I hadn’t watched a football game at anything OTHER than a party for years. Of course, this does explain why the BCS always has its championship game on a weeknight now. Grownups can’t have parties and reduce the number of “households” tuned in to the game.

  36. Oh, and Matthew, believe me, football wins in a walkaway. No denomination has beer at its services, and you really can’t get enough sacramental wine to get drunk and have a fight.

  37. I can hardly wait till they tell this to some bible-thumping defensive tackle who talks about how Jesus helped him make that bone-crunching tackle that sent the opposing receiver out of the stadium on a stretcher.

  38. Fuck football.

  39. The article says the NFL “Shut down the Church Party…..” This is rather mysterious. Did they threaten to sue? I doubt that the NFL would go through with legal action.

    The Founding Fathers should have included a “separation of the Church and the NFL” clause in the Constitution.

  40. No self-respecting pastor should root for a franchise with a misappropriated moniker anyway.

  41. Wait! You mean to tell me that the Colts left Baltimore?

  42. Don’t know who’ll win, but I’m definitely taking the over.

  43. “Fuck football.”

    There’s a sport I’d like to play. Don’t think I could make more than 4 downs without a turnover, though.

  44. Fuck football indeed.

    Especially the NFL.

  45. Unfortunately, the rights holder of the broadcast (the NFL, I think) does have a right under federal law to tell the church that they can’t have a party to watch the game Sunday. See U.S.C. Title 17, Section 110(5).

    This is the same section that covers JD’s—correct—observation: “try playing albums you own (or thought you owned, anyway) at a bar you own. You will quickly discover that the record industry claims that you don’t have the right to do that.”

    I understand there is a lot of litigation covering the scope of this section. It struck me as absolutely insane when I first heard about it in copyright law class—how can I be enjoined from displaying in my business or church the transmission that you put on the airwaves??—nevertheless it’s the law. Of course, this is the same regime where “securing for limited times” equals life of the author + 70 years (creation of the work + 120 years if you’re Disney)

    This is separate from the NFL’s right to enjoin them from using their Super Bowl trademark to advertise for their party, another area where, as I understand, there is a great deal of litigation.

    I do not know in copyright whether there is a duty of the rightsholder to aggressively police their copyright, as there is in trademark law. Absent that duty, it seems to be a poor decision to try and enjoin this church, particularly when there already is controversy about NFL’s licensing practices. Google “Sunday Ticket”, “monopoly”, and the expletive of your choice, for further information.

    IANAL, so take that into consideration…

  46. And on the third down he passed again, according to the playbook, and descended into the red zone, and handed off to the right hand of his fullback, and his is the power and the glory and 6 points, amen.

  47. The league even took exception to the church’s plan to influence nonmembers with a video highlighting the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.
    “While this may be a noble message,” NFL assistant counsel Rachel L. Margolies wrote in a follow-up e-mail, “we are consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content.”

    Let me get this straight…the NFL thinks they have the authority to regulate what people talk about while watching the game? Who needs petty despots when we have copyright holders.

  48. ASCAP and BMI represent the songwriters, and only represent the performers who write their own stuff. Those outfits license radio play of the songs, so a store or restaurant or bar can put on their favorite station and play that. If the owner or manager switches to recordings, that’s considered a “public performance”, and the two groups will demand that you pay for a separate license. Bars with live music have to get a license, unless none of the acts they book plays covers from either services’ clients’ songbooks. You may sometumes see an ASCAP or BMI decal on the door of your favorite roadhouse, in order to let everyone know they are “legal.”

    I’m not sure if stores that sell recorded music get a break on exemption from the licensing fees, but they might.

    Songwriter’s royalties are the reason chain restaurants have their own lame Birthday Songs. The owners of Happy Birthday relentlessly enforce their rights.

    Kevin

    (IANAL either, but a shop I used to work in got busted by roving goons of one or the other of the song licensing agencies, and had to pony up.)

  49. I ask that nobody read my research articles in front of large audiences…

    Wait, what the fuck is wrong with me. PUT TOGETHER THE BIGGEST POSSIBLE AUDIENCE WHEN USING ANY MATERIAL THAT I HAVE PRODUCED! PLEASE!

  50. “Stupid and incompetent as it is, what’s wrong with the NFL enforcing its property rights and maximizing its profits, from the libertarian perspective?”

    I’d have more sympathy for the NFL’s property rights if they had more respect for mine; let them finance their stadiums with private funds. Fuck the Colts. And the Bears.

    (Google “Field of Schemes”)

  51. “I’m aware that it’s illegal to profit from somebody else’s copyrighted material.”

    This is not entirely correct. IP folks, correct me if I’m wrong here. It is illegal to make unauthorized copies of somebody else’s copyrighted material, and showing a broadcast is making a copy. An authorized copy is a small private viewing of the game or at an authorized bar/venue. Profits don’t enter the equation until infringement has already been established. After it is determined that infringement has occurred, one can argue “fair use.” It is the fair use defense that takes into account whether the unauthorized copy makes any money, and even that isn’t a fully dispositive factor.

  52. I was not aware of that, Lamar.

    I’m sympathetic to intellectual property concerns, but when you broadcast that property into every friggin home in the country, isn’t that basically tantamount to giving it away?

    If somebody wants to sell a CD with some fine print on it saying “Purchase of this CD constitutes consent to these terms blah blah blah…” well, at least there’s something we can debate there. You only have that CD because you voluntarily handed over money for it. But if somebody broadcasts it into your home, your church, your bar, whatever, well, WTF do they expect?

    If they want that much control over who watches the game, they should go to a pay per view model. Otherwise, they should STFU.

  53. Since I don’t find any scriptures advocating alcohol abstinence in the biblical scriptures I’m totally miffed at how many Christian and most Islamic organizations are so pro alcohol prohibition. At least homosexuality is trashed in some scriptures – along with about 50 other “sins” routinely committed by bible believing Christians and Koran thumping Muslims. Mathew 7:1 says it all: Judge not lest ye be judged. To paraphrase it: whatever you deny others on earth will be denied to you in heaven.
    And yes, there are many, many, many more scriptures denouncing materialism in scripture than denounce drinking and raucous sexual behaviors.

  54. Charging admission is a pretty straightforward violation of the NFL’s exhibition rights, but the “55-inch” standard sounds like bullshit. It’s like overbroad “cease and desist” letters; there’s a kernel of law, but they dress it up with baseless bluster.

  55. I actually don’t know which bores me more…. Religion or American-rules football.

    Hmm.

    At least the Super Bowl has some entertaining commercials from time to time.

  56. The Church was planning to use this as a fundraiser, and likely a recruitment effort.

    It’s not unreasonable for the NFL to object, regardless of what you think about the text/details of the rules.

  57. “clone12 | February 1, 2007, 7:25pm | #
    Stupid and incompetent as it is, what’s wrong with the NFL enforcing its property rights and maximizing its profits, from the libertarian perspective?”

    yup.

    but it gives people the chance to vent about how they hate football…

    GO BEARS

  58. It would be OK if what it was enforcing was actually its property rights.

    The NFL sells the right to televise its game to TV channels, who sell the right to have the game televised to tv owners. Nowhere in there is the right to watch on someone else’s tv, or to invite someone else over, brought up.

  59. Since I don’t find any scriptures advocating alcohol abstinence in the biblical scriptures I’m totally miffed at how many Christian and most Islamic organizations are so pro alcohol prohibition.

    There are Islamic scriptures forbidding the consumption of alcohol. That explains why Islamic organizations are pro-prohibition. Why Christian ones do, I have no clue.

  60. “Fuck football.”

    There’s a sport I’d like to play. Don’t think I could make more than 4 downs without a turnover, though.”

    Shit, I’d get a touchdown every play. With the two point conversions.

  61. They’re also forgetting the social aspect’s effect on viewership. I’m an example. I’m going to a Superbowl party on Sunday. (Only a 44 inch TV, so it’s ok.) Personally, I don’t give two shits about the football game. If I was at home, I might flip over once in a while to see the commercials and check the score.
    In other words, I’m going to the party because it’s a good excuse to hang out with friends, eat unhealthy food, and maybe have a beer. The game is secondary, as far as I’m concerned.
    I don’t think what I’m describing is a rare event.

  62. To paraphrase it: whatever you deny others on earth will be denied to you in heaven.

    So there won’t be any NFL in heaven? Sweeeeet!

  63. Shit, I’d get a touchdown every play. With the two point conversions.

    Nah, the idea is to get it through the uprights.

  64. So, um, where is it written that it’s illegal to have a bunch of people watching something on a big TV?

    Right here: http://www.megalaw.com/top/copyright/17usc110.php

    Yes, the US justice system is morbidly obese. When the country dies from gorging itself on government, we’ll be in total denial like any other fat ass.

  65. What I find interesting about 17 U.S.C. 110 is that section (5)(A) specifically exempts devices “commonly used in public homes”. Big-ass TV sets are all the rage now, and for the NFL to claim otherwise (section (5)(B) notwithstanding) is BS. I agree with the poster upthread, the church should go ahead and have their Super Bowl party and let’s see who wins this in court.

  66. Once again I find the journalistic instincts of Reason’s Hit & Run lacking. This was a perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper and provide a real service to your loyal readers.

    As I ponder the possiblilities on Sunday, I find myself asking the same question over and over again.

    Who would Jesus bet on?

  67. Who would Jesus bet on?

    The Saints, of course!

  68. Football versus Christianity. The two biggest religions in Texas fight it out.

    YeeHa.

    What about guns? I thought guns were #2?

    Guns are not a religion in Texas. They’re a necessity. Water, gun, food, pickup truck, shelter.

    Who would Jesus bet on? The Saints, of course!

    Really? It was a Colt that carried him into Jerusalem.

  69. ed | February 2, 2007, 8:42am | #
    And on the third down he passed again, according to the playbook, and descended into the red zone, and handed off to the right hand of his fullback, and his is the power and the glory and 6 points, amen.

    That’s absolutely hilarious! Thanks for the laugh!

  70. Oooh, I got #69! Does that mean I get to play fuck football?

  71. “It was a Colt that carried him into Jerusalem.”

    No, it was a donkey- that indicates he’d be putting his money on Denvah.

  72. I thought it was an ass. Dan Snyder isn’t involved in the game, though.

    I was reading this John Swansburg article and it mentioned this New York Times piece. It says that Nielsen is starting to measure out-of-home viewing, especially of kids in college. They held off doing it until some clients agreed to pay for it.

    Kevin

  73. Actually it was a colt:
    Matthew 21:7
    Mark 11:7
    Luke 19:35

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