America: who are you?

24 December 2009 | 15:00 - By Jesse Fink

You really have to wonder, sometimes, if they still burn witches in America.


Pete Townshend and The Who have done recent shows in the USA, yet may not be allowed to play at the Superbowl [GETTY]

Three Florida-based child-protection groups have petitioned the NFL and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement not to allow Pete Townshend, the legendary guitarist of The Who, to play with his band at the 2010 Super Bowl on February 7 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, citing Townshend's admission in 2003 that he accessed child pornography in 1999 in the course of researching his autobiography and an anti-child pornography project called A Different Bomb.

His Surrey house was raided in 2002 by police as part of the child-porn sting "Operation Ore" and 14 of his computers confiscated, but no downloaded child-abuse images were found. After an investigation of four months, Townshend was cautioned by police and placed on the sex offenders' register for five years.

Yet despite the NFL's executive vice-president for communications and public affairs, Joe Browne, correctly pointing out Townshend was never charged with an offence nor convicted of one, that's not good enough for Child AbuseWatch founder Evin Daly, who shrills: "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."

Another well-intentioned but misguided fellow called Kevin Gillick, from Protect our Children, fulminates: "Townshend taking the stage at the Super Bowl is offensive to victims. We are incensed."

The hypocrisy of their stance is breathtaking.

Not only has The Who toured the United States several times since Townshend was cautioned but the theme song of the television series CSI: Miami, with locations filmed in the new home of the Super Bowl, features a song written by Townshend.

I don't recall the playing of that song each week in American living rooms – and Australian ones, for that matter – causing any outrage.

That bastion of middle America, CBS, the host broadcaster of Super Bowl XLIV, thinks Townshend is upstanding enough to have three of his songs – "Who Are You", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O’Riley" – used in the CSI series.

It might be worth pointing out, too, that Robert De Naja, the lead singer of Massive Attack, was also investigated as part of "Operation Ore" and later cleared. That hasn't stopped the ultra-conservative, family-values-oriented Fox Network using the band's song "Teardrop" for the theme of its hit TV show House. And why should it?

But these child-protection groups seem to think just being accused of committing a crime is enough to see you branded and vilified as a "sex offender" for life and stopped from entering the country.

So much for the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

We won't get fooled again.

:: For more Fink musings on the big issues in football, check out Half-time Orange on The World Game.

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01 Jan 2010 0:27 AEST


From: Philadelphia

double standard

I would certainly hope that should the Eagles make the Super Bowl these wackadoos will stand by their word and try to ban Mike Vick from playing in the game for being "a slap in the face to victims" of animal abuse. He was actually found GUILTY of his crimes and let's be completely honest here....Pete looked at a picture (for research). Vick tortured, mutilated and KILLED dozens of animals. I feel that's a bit different. I highly doubt we will hear anything about that though.

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31 Dec 2009 6:57 AEST


From: USA

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is a decent man. It's an honor to have him perform at the Super Bowl.

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30 Dec 2009 16:41 AEST

Trish Pottersmith

From: USA

"Child Abuse Watch" is the real problem.

Townshend's case was resolved in 2003. He's been honored by VH-1, The Kennedy Center and toured the US at least three times since then. I want these two guys to stop their self-promotion campaign at the expense of Pete. Kudos to this blog and to David Whitley for getting it right.

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30 Dec 2009 11:29 AEST



Evin Daly

Evin Daly of AbuseWatch wrote his thoughts about sex. I think it might be worth a look.

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30 Dec 2009 2:48 AEST

Peter Frampton II

From: Botswana

Fink you're an idiot

Townshend was a sex offender. He admitted to his child porn charge and wasn't prosecuted because he copped a plea - a caution which is given for the admission of guilt. Most of the writers here have the IQ of baboons and I mean no disrespect to baboons; they won't believe it even if Townshend was to admit he broke the law. Wait! He did and they still don't. I hope you know more about sports than you do about this subject ;)

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30 Dec 2009 1:09 AEST

len dickins

From: london uk


leave the guy alone, listen to the music, he paid the price (and still does it seems)

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29 Dec 2009 18:25 AEST


From: USA

Hate to break it to you WHO fans but here are the verifyable facts

Facts of the Townshend child porn case derived from the British media The truth may hurt but hey it's the truth, no matter how hard you deny it :)

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29 Dec 2009 9:19 AEST

Tim Eimiller

From: New York

Bad form, Evan Daly

Looks like Evan Daly himself is here. Your vendetta is wrong-headed. Read, learn, and make amends: Phoenix Media Statement RE: Pete Townshend: Initially, Phoenix Survivors (a web based support group run for and by victims of child sexual abuse) loudly condemned Mr Townshend. However, moved by an overwhelming response from Mr Townshends fans, calling for us to take a ‘much closer look’ at this case, we did, and it became absolutely clear that Mr Townshend did indeed do ‘a very stupid thing ‘ which we do indeed condemn, however, it was also absolutely clear to us that Mr Townshend is by no means, any kind of child molester. We feel the justice system got it wrong on this occasion and was far too heavy handed, we do not believe that his name belongs on the Sex Offenders Register, (as it makes a complete mockery of what the SOR is supposed to represent) and we wish Mr Blunkett would remove his name from it. Mr Townshend’s suicide would have been both a terrible loss and a terrible injustice, he is a good and decent man who did a very stupid thing and has MORE than paid for it. He has always been very honest about what happened and we feel he deserves our trust. We hope he can recover from this and we wish him well for the future. Shy Keenan Britain's Children's Champion Last month Shy Keenan (our spokesperson and founder) was chosen as Britain's Children's Champion BBC . Ends ............................................................ ...........................

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28 Dec 2009 14:13 AEST


From: Sydney

Isn't this meant to be a SPORTS blog?

You're either stretching for content or writing for the wrong department...Gotta love Pete's excuse "But officer I was just researching for my project". The indisputable fact is, regardless of his motives, he paid via his credit card to access the site and in doing so helped fund a criminal and manipulative industry that sexually exploits and seriously damages innocent children.

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28 Dec 2009 8:57 AEST

John Marks

From: England

Just say no to the witch hunters

If Daly and Gillick are so worried about child abuse why are they spending so much time and money going after someone who is not guilty and who's case was resolved over half a decade ago? Daly and Gillick should be going after TRUE child abusers or putting the private funds they receive towards battered women's shelters and foster/homeless children. Think of the time and money wasted on this non-issue when children out there need winter coats and food. Judging them by their actions and not their words, they don't seem to be doing much of anything constructive to safeguard the lives of children. Groups that are privately and publicly funded are supposed to be focusing on the most pressing and severe issues, Mr. Townshend's case which was decided in 2003, hardly qualifies. It could also be that possibly, as others have pointed out, Evin Daly and Kevin Gillick are socio-paths who align themselves with charitable organizations to mask their own perversions; a pattern that is sadly being seen more and more in children's rights groups and churches.

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About this Blog

The Finktank is more of what you've come to expect from Jesse Fink, The World Game's enfant terrible, but with a bent on the big issues in sport. No sport, no personality, no subject, is off limits. 

Jesse Fink Jesse Fink is one of Australia's most popular football writers and sports columnists. He is the author of the book 15 Days in June: How Australia Became a Football Nation (Hardie Grant, $29.95) and writes twice a week as "Half-Time Orange" for The World Game and weekly for ESPN Star Sports in Singapore. He lives in Sydney.