Here in the United States the Super Bowl is big. Really big. Dedicated football fans anxiously await the final showdown of the season all year, and even some people who do not normally watch football find themselves in front of a television for the what is usually the most-watched sporting event of the year.
In addition to being a huge draw for sports fans, the Super Bowl also attracts attention by selecting big-name entertainers to perform during game’s half-time break. Sometimes the events that unfold during half-time even eclipse the game itself. Who does not recall the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” from 2004 when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake entertained the Super Bowl audience? In contrast, who recalls what teams were facing off for that game?
Yes, many football fans will likely have the answer at the ready, but I sure as heck couldn’t tell you unless I looked it up. In case you were wondering it was the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers.
With the Super Bowl a little over a month away, controversy has already reared its head. With classic rock group The Who lined up to perform during half-time, some child protection groups are protesting the selection due to an incident from 2003 when the group’s guitarist, Pete Townshend, was caught up in a child pornography scandal.
Townshend was investigated by law enforcement officials in the U.K. after accessing a website that was said to have some connection with child pornography. Townsend claimed it was done solely for research on his book project. The book, entitled A Different Bomb was never published.
Townshend says the book was based on an anti-child pornography essay he posted on his personal website during 2002.
After a four-month investigation, authorities concluded that there was no evidence that Townshend had been in possession of any material relating to child pornography, and it was decided that he should be issued a “caution” instead of facing prosecution. Even so, Townshend was included on the U.K.’s Violent and Sex Offender Register for five years.
A later independent investigation added credibility to Townshend’s version of events, even suggesting that he confessed to something he did not do because of pressure from the publicity that resulted.
Even though there is much doubt surrounding Townshend’s guilt, the National Football League has heard from child advocacy groups like “Child AbuseWatch,” who are pressuring the league to cancel The Who’s scheduled performance.
Another group, “Protect Our Children” has asked federal immigration officials to prevent Townshend from entering the country. The group also stated that the NFL’s choice to invite Townshend to perform was a “a slap in the face to victims of child sexual abuse,” and warned the league that it risked a “breathtakingly ugly” public backlash if the performance goes on as scheduled.
This situation is likely to draw more attention, and kick up more of a ruckus until the NFL decides on a course of action. It will be interesting to see how they ultimately react to a series of events which they clearly didn’t expect. I can’t help wondering if there are one or two lower echelon NFL office staffers muttering “I told you so” under their breath.
For more on this unfolding controversy, check out the Times Online.