Report: NFL OKs churches showing Super Bowl on big screens

Updated: February 21, 2008, 12:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NFL will allow church groups to show the Super Bowl on large-screen televisions, reversing a policy that drew criticism from elected officials.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will no longer object to "live showings -- regardless of screen size -- of the Super Bowl" by religious organizations, The Washington Post reported.

An earlier story in The Post about church groups canceling Super Bowl parties over fear of legal action by the NFL led to protest by some lawmakers and conservative leaders.

At the center of the issue is an NFL policy which holds that organizations showing public viewings of its games on televisions larger than 55 inches violate the league's copyright. Sports bars are exempt from the policy, but last year, the NFL sent letters to two church groups, advising them of the rule, according to The Post.

In its letter to Hatch, the NFL said it would not object to big-screen viewings in churches as long as they are free and held on premises that the church uses on a "routine and customary" basis, according to the report.

Hatch said in a prepared statement that he was grateful that the NFL made the exception.

"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," he said, according to The Post.

Steve Holley, executive pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Va., which canceled its big-screen Super Bowl party this year over the policy, was also pleased by the change.

"[The NFL] decided to set aside profit for community spirit," Holley said, according to The Post. "I'm encouraged by that."