Turns out, according to CT, that the shutdown is related to evangelistic efforts. Weblog: NFL Cracks Down on Church Super Bowl Events (Be sure to read it on their site for all the links.
NFL lawyers searching church web sites for copyright infringements
Like many churches, Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis was planning a group viewing of the Super Bowl. Its “Super Bowl Bash” was to include an evangelistic element: a video of Colts coach Tony Dungy and several of his players talking about Jesus.
NFL lawyers found the announcement on the church’s website and FedEx’ed a cease-and-desist order. The church’s large screen (only screens 55 inches and smaller are allowed), use of the words “Super Bowl,” and other plans violated copyright laws, the lawyers said. So does the evangelistic video. NFL assistant counsel Rachel L. Margolies wrote to the congregation, according to The Indianapolis Star: “While this may be a noble message, we are consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content.”
There’s no word on how many other churches have been contacted by the NFL, or whether Smith’s own church, which was planning to show the game on a projection screen to up to 1,000 people, has special dispensation. But given the quotes from multiple NFL representatives in the Star article, this isn’t just the case of one overzealous attorney. This may be the end of a very common annual church practice across the country. Already, some churches are scrambling to cancel or change Sunday’s events. Others say they’ll keep holding events until they get their own letter from NFL attorneys.