Child abuse groups: Ban Townshend Super Bowl gig
As a victim of child sex abuse himself, will campaign to ban The Who guitarist take off?
Pete Townshend has been targeted by US child protection groups who want to prevent The Who guitarist from playing during the half-time show at February's Super Bowl XLIV.
In a letter to the National Football League, which stages American football's most prestigious event, Child Abusewatch wrote: "Inviting Townshend to play is a blatant disregard to the values of... American families and a slap in the face to victims of child sexual abuse."
In 2003 Townshend was cautioned by police, but never charged, for accessing child pornography on the internet and spent five years on the Sex Offenders Register. At the time, he said he went to the website for research purposes.
He has since toured the US with The Who. But the pressure group Protect Our Children has nevertheless lodged a formal complaint with US immigration authorities saying that Townshend should be banned from entering the country.
The organisation's president, Kevin Gillick, said the NFL risked a "breathtakingly ugly" public backlash: "We acknowledge he was not convicted but he was on [the UK's] sex offender list. In the United States, you’re on a sex offenders list for life.
"People tune in from all over the world and they are going to get a British sex offender on their screen. Townshend taking the stage at the Super Bowl is offensive to victims. We are incensed."
The Super Bowl's halftime show, which has in the past been put on by the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, is no stranger to controversy. In 2004, CBS, the TV network hosting that year's event, was fined a record $550,000 after Justin Timberlake inadvertently ripped open Janet Jackson's top during the halftime show, exposing her right breast to millions of viewers.
So far, the NFL has said The Who will play as scheduled in Miami on February 7, but the children's campaigners say they will wage a concerted campaign, including making the Super Bowl's sponsors and advertisers aware of Townshend's background.
However, the guitarist's troubled past is precisely what might save him if the campaign gains traction. Townshend has said he was sexually abused as a child; he wrote the rock opera, Tommy, about an abused boy. One of the songs, Fiddle About, had to be written by The Who's bassist John Entwistle, because Townshend found the subject matter too painful.
But even if these child protection groups fail in their campaign against one of the greatest stadium-filling rock bands in history, the next month is sure to see a boost to the profile of the torrid subject of child abuse. ·
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