You knew it would only be a matter of time before Manti Te’o’s nonexistent girlfriend got her first real endorsement deal.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, the animal-rights group known for its outspoken ad campaigns, is using the scandal surrounding the superstar footballer to convince viewers of Super Bowl XLVII to eat vegetarian chicken wings this Sunday. The organization announced a new billboard ad this week that will feature a photo of the famous Notre Dame linebacker.
“Sometimes faking it is better,” the ad says.
The 22-year-old Te’o was caught up in a media storm earlier this month when sports website Deadspin revealed that his girlfriend -- who he said died from leukemia -- did not actually exist. Te’o maintains that he was the victim of a hoax, a phenomenon known as catfishing, in which someone is lured into an online relationship with a fake person. The bizarre scandal became an overwhelming media sensation, because Te'o's tragic backstory was an integral part of the popular player's heroic narrative and was often referenced in the media and by Te'o himself.
But while Te’o said his fake girlfriend caused him deep emotional distress, PETA thinks fake chicken wings, which are made from soy protein, are another story. In a blog post on Monday, PETA’s Alisa Mullins wrote that choosing faux chicken wings over the real thing is the more “healthy and humane” choice, citing the harsh treatment of chickens on factory farms. “Birds slaughtered for their wings and other body parts are often dropped into tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still conscious and aren't covered by even the meager protections of the Humane Slaughter Act,” Mullins wrote.
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Mullins also noted the skyrocketing price of real chicken wings this year, a consequence of the summer drought, which has led to higher feed costs for chickens.
According to the National Chicken Council’s 2013 Wing Report (yes, there is such a thing), Americans will consume more than 1.23 billion wing portions during Super Bowl weekend -- the busiest of the year for chicken wings. This year’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens kicks off at 6:30 p.m. EST at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
[Update: 2:15 p.m.] Ashley Byrne, a PETA spokesperson, said the group had intended to run the Manti Te’o billboard in New Orleans, where Super Bowl attendees could see it. However, that plan has since been scrapped, according to Byrne, who said Te’o’s reps asked PETA not to run the ad “out of respect for Manti Te’o’s wishes.” The ad will continue to run on PETA’s website.
This isn’t the first time PETA has attempted to dissuade Super Bowl viewers from chowing down on poultry. In 2009, the organization attempted to run its now-infamous “Veggie Love” commercial campaign during Super Bowl Super Bowl XLIII. The commercials, which featured sexy models getting busy with vegetables, were politely rejected by NBC, but they’ve since become minor hits on YouTube. PETA, the world’s largest animal-rights organization, reportedly offered $3 million to run the ads. No word yet on how much it offered Te’o’s fake girlfriend.
Either way, if you’re looking for vegetarian options for Super Bowl Sunday, PETA has posted a list of faux-chicken recipes on its website.