The ad is part of the St. Louis hospital’s “Tree of Hope Appeal,” asking the public to send a message of hope “to sick and injured children who may not be able to come home for the holidays."
The ad's voice–over says: “We celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving, bringing hope to the many children, parents, and families that we serve.”
"Help us reveal God's healing presence this Christmas. Send your message of hope at Glennon.org," the ad continues.
Dan Buck, vice president of philanthropy for Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, tells CNSNews.com that the hospital was hoping to air the spot during the December 14 NCAA basketball game between Virginia Commonwealth and the University of Northern Iowa.
“Our first denial was out of the commercial operations side of ESPN that the spot was declined and not approved for air based on their religious standards,” Buck says.
“We asked for some further clarification to how this spot, which does seem pretty harmless - it’s obviously just promoting our mission and our faith-based heritage and what we believe in; we weren’t trying to impose our beliefs on anyone else. It’s very clear in the spot we say ‘At Cardinal Glennon we celebrate the birth of Jesus.’”
“They got back to us and told us it was specifically that line. The actual quote they gave us was specifically the line ‘celebrate the birth of Jesus’ and ‘help us reveal God’s healing presence’ are problematic.”
ESPN sent a statement to CNSNews.com saying, “As originally submitted, the spot did not meet our commercial advocacy standards. We have since been supplied with a different commercial which will air on the 14th.” (View both ads below)
The sports network did not reply to CNSNews.com’s inquiry about what specific aspects of the ad failed to meet ESPN’s standards, but they noted that “each commercial is reviewed as part of the approval process,” and that “not all commercials make it on our networks.”
Buck says since news of the ad's rejection has spread, the hospital has been receiving an outpouring of support.
“I guess it is somewhat a blessing in disguise. Had ESPN not taken this stance, people across America would not be rallying to our support and it’s been overwhelming, it’s been a real uplift.
“We’ve gone from one spectrum of disbelief a week ago, and I was feeling pretty down about their decision, and today we are really being pretty uplifted. So are our kids. We’re going to have thousands of ‘Messages of Hope’ pouring in.”