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National Football League OKs churches' airing Super Bowl on big screens


(RNS) — The National Football League will now allow churches to air live showings of the Super Bowl on a screen of any size, reversing a previous ban on widescreen televisions.

Members of Congress, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and church leaders had objected to the NFL’s rule that churches could not hold Super Bowl parties featuring TV screens larger than 55 inches, even though sports bars routinely do.

“For future Super Bowls, the league will not object to live showings – regardless of screen size – of the Super Bowl by a religious organization when such showings are free and on premises used by the religious organization on a routine and customary basis,” wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a Feb. 19 letter to Hatch.

Hatch had written to Goddell on Feb. 13, asking a series of questions about the policy and saying he wanted to ensure that “all Americans” could watch the game with “loved ones and neighbors.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the change was made to clarify confusion about the matter.

“We were not going after churches, not investigating churches, and we have never sued a church,” he said. “What we’re doing now is simply eliminating the question and confusion about copyright law.”

Hatch was pleased with the NFL’s decision.

“I am grateful that this accommodation was made to allow the NFL to protect its copyrighted material, while respecting the interests of churches,” the senator said. “Many families want to enjoy the Super Bowl in a group atmosphere – but obviously aren’t going to take their kids to a sports bar.”

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced legislation Feb. 4 that would allow churches to show the Super Bowl on widescreen televisions.

Goodell told Hatch the league believes legislation is not necessary and will begin its policy with the Super Bowl next Feb. 1.

McCarthy denied that the league was pressured to make the policy change.

“It was responding to the confusion over the last couple of years but Sen. Hatch ... did play into the overall shift,” he said.