By Mary Robb Jackson

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Rollen Stewart is best remembered for introducing the biblical quote “John 3:16” into pop culture at sundry sports venues.

He reportedly was born again after Super Bowl 14 in 1980 when the Steelers beat the Rams 31-19.

But a new ad, citing John 3:16 produced by a religious advocacy group in Alabama is stirring up a Super Bowl XLV controversy. The 30-second spot has been rejected by Fox Sports to air during the big game.

The ad shows two guys watching a pivotal point in a game when a close-up of one of the players shows John 3:16 written on his face.

Internet reaction to Fox’s rejection of the commercial has already racked up more than 291,000 search results.

“Mostly because they’re nervous about who they might offend politically,” Brent Malin, assistant professor of communications at Pitt, said of the reason for rejection.

However, he says, Super Bowl ad rejects are nothing new, like MoveOn’s 2004 offering.

“They proposed an ad that was going to be criticizing President Bush and that was rejected and that same year, I believe, there was an ad from PETA that was rejected,” Malin said.

Being rejected may be the best thing to happen for the ad, according to Malin.

“They’re [going to] get lots on free publicity,” he said. “They’re going to be shown much more probably than that 30-second spot that they would have paid $3 million for.”

A statement from Fox Broadcasting indicates that as a matter of company policy it does not accept advertising from religious organizations for the purpose of advancing particular beliefs or practices.

The John 3:16 advertising clearly delivers a religious message and as a result was rejected.