By Aaron Earls
Most church Super Bowl parties are perfectly legal, but a few regulations could cause the NFL to throw a penalty flag on a congregation.
Ten years ago, Super Bowl parties appeared to be in jeopardy. Many churches canceled their plans after the NFL began legally objecting to virtually all public showings, including those hosted by religious organizations.
In 2007, Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis planned on gathering to watch the local Colts take on the Chicago Bears until the church received a letter from the NFL.
Dr. John Newland, senior pastor of Fall Creek, said the NFL informed the church the size of the screen being used to show the game violated the league’s copyright laws.
That year, the NFL sent letters to two churches advising them of the league policy, which prohibited organizations from holding public viewings of its game on screens larger than 55 inches.
After significant backlash, the league reversed course. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to Congress saying it would not object to live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations regardless of the screen size.
Despite the change, other regulations remain in place. Make sure your church follows these four guidelines.
• Don’t charge admission. Churches cannot charge for people to watch the game, but donations can be accepted to offset costs of food and other items.
Using the event to collect canned goods for a local food pantry and similar charity-driven promotions are also allowed.
• Location matters. A church is free to show the game in “its usual place of worship” but can’t rent a different facility like an auditorium or theater specifically to watch the game.
Also, a church that meets in rented property cannot show the game there even if the facility is where the church usually gathers for worship, according to an NFL representative who spoke with Christian Copyright Solutions.
• Be careful with names and logos. While the NFL fiercely protects the use of the phrase “Super Bowl,” churches are free to refer to the game by name, mention the teams playing, and use “NFL” in promotional materials.
Churches cannot, however, use any copyrighted logo, including the NFL Shield, Super Bowl LI logo, or team logos.
• DVRs are OK. The NFL prohibits rebroadcasting of its games, but churches can use a digital video recorder to watch the game if Sunday evening services run past kickoff.
For more, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance sums up Super Bowl regulations and provides additional information on church-related copyright laws.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.