The FCC said the pregame introduction, which aired Nov. 15, 2004, wasn't graphic enough to warrant action. The segment, which featured Ms. Sheridan dropping a towel as she headed toward Mr. Owens, prompted a rebuke from the National Football League and an apology from Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. The FCC's action was in response to complaints lodged by proponents of family-friendly TV.
The NFL was still smarting from the drubbing it took over the Janet Jackson 2004 Super Bowl halftime show "wardrobe malfunction," and the sexually charged segment, which was also meant to promote ABC's racy Sunday soap opera Desperate Housewives, caused a major media storm, with conservative gorups calling the episode indecent and athletes referring to it as racist.
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 on the show, was clad only in a white towel as she confronts Mr. Owens in the Eagles' locker room. A brief seduction scene between Ms. Sheridan, playing her character, and Mr. Owens, dressed for a big game against the rival Dallas Cowboys, ends when Ms. Sheridan drops the towel and a smiling Mr. Owens says, "Aww, hell, the team's going to have to win without me." She then jumps into Mr. Owens' arms.
'Simply not graphic'
According to the FCC, "No sexual or excretory organs are shown or described, and no sexual activities are explicitly depicted or described. Furthermore, the scene where Sheridan drops her towel and jumps into Owens’s arms is brief. ... Although the scene apparently is intended to be titillating, it simply is not graphic or explicit enough to be indecent under our standard."
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said that while he felt the broadcast didn't violate broadcast indecent laws, "I would hope that television broadcasters would go the extra mile in exercising self-discipline when airing or promoting programming that may not be appropriate for younger viewers. There wasn’t much self-discipline in this particular promotion. As stewards of the public airwaves, broadcasters can and should do better."