The NFL has long been very protective of the use of the term "Super Bowl" in any commercial environment, if the NFL isn't getting paid for the use. That's why there are so many radio and TV ads talking about "the big game" or the "football championship", without referencing the words "Super Bowl". That's all well and good.
Now, though, it appears that the NFL has made a really bone-headed decision regarding Super Bowl viewing parties. Check out the website of Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, which was planning a huge bash to watch their hometown team play. Here's the news they have on their home page currently:
We regret to inform you that we have had to cancel our bash to view the Colts game this Sunday in a family friendly environment due to the fact that the NFL believes we would be in violation of the Copyright Act, because we had planned to show the game on a screen bigger than a 55 inch diagonal. We have appealed to their legal counsel and exhausted all options without success. We have been informed that the only exceptions to view the game are given to sports bars and restaurants. While we have argued that we only intend to provide a family oriented environment that will make no profit from the showing, the NFL claims that our event cannot proceed by law. Therefore, we have no choice but to challenge this in court or cancel the event. We choose to cancel the event. We deeply regret that we have been prohibited by the NFL from providing a family friendly environment for celebrating the Colts great season.What in the world? Why would the NFL make exceptions for "sports bars and restaurants" but not for churches? If the church sells snacks at the party, does that turn them into a temporary restaurant? Obviously, the NFL decided not.
Does the NFL actually think this is going to help their image with those hundreds, maybe thousands, of church members in Indianapolis? Unbelievable.
According to this article on GetReligion.org, other churches are also ending their Super Bowl viewing parties to accommodate the NFL's restrictions. It will be interesting to see, especially next year, if the NFL sticks to its guns on this. On the other hand, it appears that the largest church-sponsored Super Bowl party in our area (with thousands of attendees every year, free food and games, etc.) is still scheduled to continue. They must not have heard the news.
The most ridiculous statement here is from the NFL, referenced in the Falls Creek Church statement: "the NFL claims that our event cannot proceed by law". Oh, right... the NFL has its hands tied here. It wishes that it could provide an exception for churches, like it provides for bars and restaurants, but the law simply won't allow it. Yeah, whatever.
I predict that either the NFL will quietly rescind this policy very soon (maybe before this Super Bowl, if they have any sense, but at least before the next one)... or else this is going to be a big black eye for them come next year.