ESPN Fails to Run Catholic Hospital Ad that Mentions 'God' Due to 'Operational Mistake'

ESPN Fails to Run Catholic Hospital Ad that Mentions 'God' Due to 'Operational Mistake'

On Saturday, ESPN did not air an ad from a St. Louis Catholic Hospital that mentioned “God” and “Jesus” on ESPNU’s broadcast of the NCAA basketball game between Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Northern Iowa even after the network had promised to do so after intense pressure last week. ESPN had initially found the religious mentions in the ad to be “problematic,” but reversed course on Thursday. 

According to the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation, ESPN apologized profusely for the error on Saturday after Breitbart Sports alerted the hospital that the original ad did not run during the broadcast. Breitbart Sports has learned that a spokesperson for ESPN told the Cardinal Glennon’s Children Foundation that the traffic mixup came about because of the late change and the paperwork for the change did not get submitted. 

The Cardinal Glennon’s Children Foundation told Breitbart Sports that ESPN will run the original “Tree of Hope” spot, which mentions “God” and “Jesus” on Saturday night in the NCCA’s Women’s Volleyball Elite 8 tournament programming on ESPNU in the 6:30 PM EST game. Breitbart Sports has learned that ESPN has aired one ad during its volleyball coverage and will run another on Saturday night on ESPNU. Such “make-goods” are usually how broadcasters handle traffic errors like this.

On Thursday, after rejecting the initial ad that Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center submitted, ESPN decided to allow the hospital to run a substitute advertisement that did not mention “God” and “Jesus.” Then, after public pressure, ESPN reversed course and on Thursday said it would allow the original advertisement to air nationwide on Saturday.

During the second half of the college basketball game between Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Northern Iowa, though, ESPN ran the substitute ad, which did not reference “God” or “Jesus”, and did not run the original ad it had promised it would run during the broadcast. 

On Thursday, after pressure from conservative outlets like Breitbart News, Fox News and politicians and cultural figures like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, ESPN told Breitbart News:

“We have again reviewed the ads submitted for the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and have concluded that we will accept the original requested commercial.  It will run in Saturday’s VCU at Northern Iowa basketball game on ESPNU.  This decision is consistent with our practice of individual review of all ads under our commercial advocacy standards.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dan Buck, executive director of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation in St. Louis, also heard from an ESPN spokesman, who told Buck, “We decided to take a harder look and it is well within the standards. We apologize for the mixup.”

Buck told the Post-Dispatch, “I said: ‘I appreciate you making the right decision. America will be happy you made the right decision, and I’m sorry it came to this. Then he said ‘Happy Holidays’ and I said ‘Merry Christmas.'”

Before ESPN reversed course, an ESPN spokesperson told Breitbart News that the initial spot “did not meet our commercial advocacy standards. We have since been supplied with a different commercial which will air on the 14th.”

The original ad asks viewers to send letters of hope to children away from their families during the Christmas holidays.

“At… Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving, bringing hope to the many children, parents, and families that we serve,” an announcer says in the ad before mentioning that the hospital’s patients are “filled with hope” because they receive daily messages from the “treasure chest” beneath its “tree of hope.”

The ad concludes by asking viewers to “help us reveal God’s healing presence this Christmas. Send your message of hope at” 

ESPN initially found the words “we celebrate the birth of Jesus” and “help us reveal God’s healing presence this Christmas” to be “problematic.”

A Hospital spokesperson thanked Breitbart News on Thursday for its role in ESPN’s reversal on the advertisement. 

Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy and Tony Lee contributed to this report. 


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