FIRST-PERSON: Sports, properly clothed

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)--Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy said “it” was racially insensitive. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney called “it” disgraceful. National Football League spokesman Greg Aiello said “it” was inappropriate and unsuitable.

The “it” in question was not an off-color comment or a fan’s boorish behavior. Rather, it was the titillating spot ABC aired just prior to the network’s Nov. 15 broadcast of Monday Night Football.

For those who missed “it,” and I am glad that I did, it seems that ABC portrayed Nicolette Sheridan, clad only in a towel, and Philadelphia Eagles premiere player Terrell Owens alone in a locker room. Sheridan, a star of ABC’s salacious show “Desperate Housewives,” proceeded to drop the terry cloth covering her bare body, leap into the arms of Owens and suggest that he forgo the game.

Dungy did not like the spot because Sheridan is white and Owens is black. The coach felt the promo perpetuated the stereotype that black men desire white women. Which begs the question, would the coach have found the opening more acceptable had Sheridan been black or Owens white?

Rooney and Aiello’s outrage focused on the provocative nature of the spot. They were bothered by the sexual content. Many NFL fans agreed.

Janet Jackson’s costume “malfunction” and Sheridan’s towel drop may draw indignant gasps, but where is the moral outrage over the sex that saturates the NFL week in and week out?

Before there was Janet and Nicolette, there were the scantily clad twins of the beer commercials. Not too many seasons ago, another alcohol promotion tied to NFL games featured two women ripping each others clothes off.

And what about the “cheerleaders” each NFL team sponsors? Modesty is not the prevailing theme of their attire or on-field presentations. One team even offers a lingerie calendar of the women who strut on their sideline each Sunday. What does a product featuring 12 months of females in their underwear have to do with football?

There is no rational connection between the flaunting of sexuality and athletic competition. Be that as it may, it seems that sports fans cannot escape the constant presence of skin. From the NBA, where the dances at games these days would cause Mae West to blush, to the Olympics, where somebody should have told the beach volleyball players to put some clothes on, it seems sexuality on display is the order of the day.

The parading of sexuality at sports events has even trickled down to the high school and college levels. A recent athletic event I attended included a halftime program that featured teenage girls bumping and grinding to provocative music.

Apparently some high school and collegiate dance teams can now qualify as vocational education. The girls who successfully complete these programs seem adequately trained to secure employment in a strip joint.

Are Tony Dungy, Dan Rooney, Greg Aiello and NFL fans right to be outraged over the tawdry towel scene depicted during the opening of the most recent installment of Monday Night Football? Absolutely! However, disgust also should be registered over the sex obsession that seems to saturate America’s sports culture.

Speaking for myself, I am one sports fan who would simply like to watch an athletic event without barely covered bodies being shoved in my face. The only “it” I am interested in is the game.


Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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