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NFL Rebukes ABC for Racy Pre-game Promo

'Desperate Housewives' Star Sheds Towel for Eagles Player

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DETROIT ( -- The National Football League delivered a sharp rebuke this afternoon to the opening of last night's Monday Night Football game, in which ABC promoted its hit show Desperate Housewives by featuring series star Nicolette Sheridan clad only in a white towel, which she sheds before jumping into the arms of Philadelphia Eagles star receiver Terrell Owens.

Photo: AP
Nicolette Sheridan of 'Desperate Housewives' shed her towel for viewers of Monday Night Football.
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In a statement released this afternoon, the league said ABC's opening was "inappropriate and unsuitable for our Monday Night Football audience. While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost."

Today, the Walt Disney Co. network issued an official statement saying, "The placement of last night's Monday Night Football opening segment was inappropriate. We apologize."

The controversy comes after two marketers, Lowe's Home Improvement and Tyson Foods, last month dropped its advertising on Desperate Housewives because of its racy, sexy content. Moreover, it comes 10 months after Viacom's CBS drew the wrath of the league and Federal Communications Commission when singer Janet Jackson's breast was bared during a live halftime performance at the Super Bowl.

Clad only in white towel
Desperate Housewives has been the breakout hit of the season for ABC. In the intro to the Monday Night Football telecast, Ms. Sheridan, who plays randy divorcee Edie Britt and who recently had her house burned down by a jealous neighbor, was clad only in a white towel as she confronts Mr. Owens in the Eagles' locker room in the following scene:

Mr. Owens: Hey.
Ms. Sheridan: Hey there, Terrell.
Mr. Owens: What are you doing here?
Ms. Sheridan: My house burned down and I needed to take a long, hot shower. So where are you off to looking so pretty?
Mr. Owens: Baby, it's Monday Night Football, game starts in 10 minutes.
Ms. Sheridan: Oh, you and your little games. ... I've got a game we can play.
Mr. Owens: Hey, this is major. We've got [Bill] Parcells and the Cowboys ... and Donovan [McNabb] needs me.
Ms. Sheridan: What about my needs? What about Edie?
Mr. Owens: Will you stop it ... just tell me what's buried under that pool.
Ms. Sheridan: You know I can't tell you that.
Mr. Owens: Then I've got a game to play.
Ms. Sheridan: Terrell, wait ... [drops the towel]
Mr. Owens: [smiling]: Aww, hell, the team's going to have to win without me. [She jumps into Mr. Owens' arms]
[Cut to series' co-stars Felicity Huffman and Teri Hatcher watching the scene on TV]
Ms. Hatcher: Oh, my God, who watches this trash? Sex, lies, deception?
Ms. Huffman: And that woman ... she's just so ... desperate.
Ms. Hatcher: I know what we should watch. [She picks up remote and changes the channel to Monday Night Football, which is playing its theme song]
Ms. Hatcher and Ms. Huffman, together: Are you ready for some football?

Super Bowl fiasco
Mark Mandel, vice president of media relations for ABC Sports, told the Philadelphia Inquirer late Monday night that this was not comparable to the Super Bowl fiasco.

"Before every Monday Night Football we do something entertaining to get the viewer to watch the game," Mr. Mandel said. "We have traditionally looked for all kinds of hooks to do these kind of segments, if there is an ABC show doing particularly well. ... This is the first time I've seen it and I don't know the background. We try to be interesting and entertaining and that's usually the objective. I don't know that this has anything to do with the Super Bowl."

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Claire Atkinson contributed to this report.

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