Blake Koch is a very talented driver. He made his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last year, and finished in the top 20 in four races, enough to rank 18th overall in 2011. Currently in his second season, Koch rounds out the top 20 after five Nationwide races. Not too shabby. The kid’s obviously got a bright future.
Unfortunately, his future in publicizing voter registration awareness is not off to a good start.
The website RiseUpAndRegister.com has affiliated itself with Koch in encouraging “the entire NASCAR nation to rise up and make our voices heard this election.” A quote from Koch on the website reads, “Over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election. I know I was one of them.” He’s spearheading a promotion where, if you join Rise Up And Register via text, you’ll be in the running to win a Chevrolet Camaro, which Koch even promises to “deliver… myself.”
There is a 30-second advertisement promoting the cause, the contest, and of course, the website.
Koch and crew hoped that the advertisement would run on ESPN, whose family of networks carry coverage of the Nationwide circuit all season long. Much to Koch’s chagrin, ESPN waved a caution flag.
On Thursday, ESPN released a statement stating that they rejected the ad, saying it “did not meet our guidelines in regard to advocacy messaging.” The Worldwide Leader also claims “Koch’s personal religious beliefs played no role in our evaluation.”
But Koch is claiming otherwise. Koch told Bob Pockrass, NASCAR journalist for Scene Daily, which has been officially rebranded as the NASCAR section of SportingNews.com, that he had been informed way back on February 24 “that they weren’t going to air the commercials due to political and religious overtones… particularly on the BlakeKoch.com website.” (The “Rise Up And Register” spot was uploaded to YouTube on February 29.)
As a result of ESPN’s refusal to run the ad, Pockrass is also reporting that the organization “has now decided to stop sponsoring the Rick Ware Racing car.” Though, as of post time, references to Rise Up And Register (including photos of Koch donning gear bearing the organization’s logo) appear on Koch’s website, and of course, likewise on Rise Up And Register’s website. And Koch tweeted today that Rise Up And Register would honor their commitment to sponsor 20 races and “they are trying [their] best to make that happen.”
Koch also appeared on Fox News Channel’s morning show and played audio of a voice mail left by Rosa Gatti, ESPN Senior Vice President of Communication, who explained it “was declined for poitical and religious overtones which we avoid by all of our standards.” Note that the spot does not make a single reference to religion or Christianity, yet ESPN, according to Gatti, believes that they “do see the religious aspects of” the campaign by looking “at Blake’s website.”
The ESPN employee’s voice mail is a complete contrast from the official statement ESPN issued last week citing his “personal religious beliefs played no role” in their decision to deny the spot.
Oh, I see. So maybe it would only be a conflict of interest because President Obama makes regular appearances on ESPN.
Let’s take a closer look at Blake Koch’s website. Part of his bio reads, “Blake’s ambition is to promote God back into the American family.” On the “Outreach” page, it promotes appearances that Koch plans to make at churches in cities where upcoming Nationwide races are scheduled to take place. And did you see one of the T-shirts that Koch is selling? It reads “For One Nation Under God.” Additionally, a link on the bottom right of the Rise Up And Register website asks visitors to “bring Blake Koch to your church!”
Likewise, Koch made no secret of his belief in his Christian faith when he appeared on Fox News. “One thing I will not do is deny my faith just because a particular sponsor might not like the way I express my faith… I didn’t think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not.”
Whether the Worldwide Leader is playing a game of “CYA” or not with their statement issued on Thursday, the bottom line is that Blake Koch learned straight from the source that “religious overtones” played into ESPN’s decision not to air Koch’s ad for Rise Up And Register.
This is the same ESPN that has devoted hours upon hours of coverage to another outspoken Christian athlete – you probably heard of him… His name is Tim Tebow.
The same Tim Tebow that ESPN devoted not one, but two special editions of “SportsCenter” to.
And the same Tim Tebow whose commercials endorsing the energy drink FRS have ran on, you guessed it, ESPN.
Let’s pay a visit to FRS’ website, shall we? We already know what “religious overtones” to expect when we go to Tebow’s official website. Ah, there it is: Tim Tebow’s personal profile on FRS.com, which, in the middle of the page, has a shameless plug for the Tim Tebow Foundation, which “utilizes the public platform that” – wait for it – “God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in people’s lives throughout the world.” There it is! A reference to Tebow’s Lord and savior Jesus Christ on FRS’ website! Who knew? (By the way, FRS: You may want to update that part on your Tebow page about him being the “starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.”)
Does anybody know if Rosa Gatti or anyone from ESPN decided to take a look at Tim Tebow’s website, or perhaps his profile on the FRS website before airing the Tim Tebow FRS commercial? We wouldn’t want ESPN viewers to be fed any “religious overtones” if they saw that commercial, would we?
There’s a reason why you get over 2 million search results if you Google “ESPN” and “hypocrites”: because the Worldwide Leader is guilty of so many double standards. They won’t promote politics or religion unless it benefits them. In fact, when ESPN fired longtime “Monday Night Football” theme crooner Hank Wiliams Jr. after his controversial appearance on Fox News Channel, many were quick to point out ESPN’s political bias.
While there are no signs of Koch’s political preference on his personal website, when he says, “over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election” – an election in which Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain – and concedes that “I know I was one of them”, and is now the face of a campaign encouraging all of “NASCAR nation” to “rise up and register” to vote in this year’s election, some people could draw their own conclusions. Especially when you consider ESPN’s decision to not accept Koch’s advertisement, yet they fawn all ower Tim Tebow – who has been seen in the same room as President Obama (just sayin’).
And here’s the kicker: In the ultimate sign of disrespect to Blake Koch, not only is Rise Up And Register not listed as his main sponsor on ESPN’s website, he’s still listed as a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing – and the driver of a Dodge, to boot. Somebody please alert ESPN that Blake Koch has joined Rick Ware Racing and now drives a Chevrolet – and he’s going to give one lucky race fan his or her own Chevy Camaro if they sign up for Rise Up And Register – on second thought, just tell them that he’s joined Rick Ware Racing.
Blake Koch. The latest in a long line of people to which ESPN owes a major apology – for another bout in a recurring disease known as hypocrisy.
UPDATE: Jerry Wilson of Examiner.com is reporting that not only did ESPN reverse its decision not to run the Rise Up And Register spot, but it was the organization’s “failure to fulfill its financial obligations to ESPN” that is the main reason why the spot was not run on their air. Additionally, the group “has failed to make payment to Rick Ware Racing for sponsorship of the car” – this likely lends creedence to Koch’s earlier tweet that both sides were working to “make that happen.” Stay tuned.