Did you know ESPN had a policy against religious overtones? Apparently theydo. Nascar driver Blake Koch was sponsored by RiseUpandRegister.com, a group seeking to register one million new people to vote. Their planwas to reach potential voters who love Nascar via ads featuring young driverBlake Koch.
Here’s the ad in question. As you can see, the ad is non-partisan and makes no explicit reference tofaith of any kind. However, last month Blake learned that ESPN had declinedthe ad because they identified political and religious overtones on BlakeKoch’s website. Koch appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to discuss the decision. During theinterview we get to hear the actual voice message ESPN left on Blake’sphone:
The spot was declined for political and religious overtoneswhich we avoid by all of our standards. We looked at the website, you know,as well…at Blake’s website and do see the religious aspects of this. Sothose are the reasons.
Koch is an outspoken Christian who regularly gives talks about his faith atchurches as he tours the country. While most of his site is devoted to hisracing, one page, titled “Outreach,” featureshis religious beliefs and speaking:
The 2012-2013 NASCAR Season is all about reaching out to NASCARfans with the message of the Gospel. Blake will be speaking and sharing histestimony in churches all across America. Blake is strong encouragement toyoung and old and he shares the challenges of Christian life as a top NASCARdriver, and the ultimate victory in Christ.
There’s no doubt this is what Blake Koch is about. And it’s likely that thepeople at Rise up and Register selected Blake as their spokesman, in part,because they liked his public persona. But again, the ad itself makes nomention of religion (or party). That’s likely why the spokesperson used theword “overtones” since there are no actual “tones” of religion in the ad.It will be interesting to see if ESPN maintains a consistent approach to adsrelated to voting in the remainder of this year. Would they accept ads fromRock the Vote or the Obama campaign? In the meantime, Blake Koch, his (nowex-)sponsor, and many viewers are left wondering why someone’s evangelicalChristianity automatically invalidates them as a spokesperson at ESPN.