The British band the WHO has come up against a roadblock they had rather hoped to avoid as they prepare for their upcoming appearance at the Super Bowl in February 2010. A ghost from Pete Townshend's past has reappeared and could well put a crimp on his plans and make the show more of a Roger Daltry solo event.
After the Who was announced as the half time show, Townshend suddenly found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason. Fact is Townshend has a criminal record in the UK and was a registered sex offender there from 2003 to 2008. It's no secret that the United States has what could be described as a less than zero tolerance for child abuse offences in general and offenders in particular.
A criminal record is enough to preclude Townshend from traveling to the United States at all; a fact not lost on child advocate Kevin Gillick of Protect Our Kids Inc., in Florida. Gillick has written to Assistant Secretary John Morton at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to find out why Townshend was given a free pass to travel to the United States since 2003. Mr. Gillick is particularly concerned about Townshend's apparent breach of a provision for exclusion in the Immigration and Naturalization (INS) code that refers to 'violations of moral turpitude.'
Visitors with a criminal record attempting to travel to the U.S. are refused entry - the rules are quite straightforward and strict. How Townshend has been allowed repeated entry is a mystery. Adding to, and perhaps apart from, the criminal record - is his British sex offender status, which on its own should be an automatic disqualifier for entry.
The full background to the Townshend story can be found at the link at the end of the page. Briefly, Townshend received his sex offender status and criminal record in 2003 when he admitted to visiting a web porn site depicting child rape images using his credit card to pay for access. His plea of doing 'research' fell on deaf ears and he received a caution from the British police which gave him a criminal record for life. He escaped harsh prosecution because none of the computers he owned contain child rape images when examined by the British police. He was however ordered to register on the British Violent and Sexual Offenders Register (ViSOR) for five years where he has been obliged to check in with the police regularly and to notify them about travel plans.
There has been a rising groundswell of opposition to Townshend's participation at the Super Bowl given its preeminence as a prime family show. His participation has been a source of puzzlement for American family organizations and child advocates, some have whom have publicly expressed wonder at the NFL's decision process in choosing him. "What were they thinking?" has been a common response to the NFL's choice of entertainment. So far the large media outlets have been reticent about picking up the story; perhaps as Amanda Knox and Tiger Woods have been the stories du jour.
Townshend has not been without his supporters. Some feel that he was wrongly accused to begin with; others that he has paid his price by being on the sex offender registry for five years. Some argue that as he wasn't arrested and charged that he has been innocent all along. Most have ignored Townshend's own admission to viewing and paying for child porn.
Child AbuseWatch in Pompano Beach Florida has spearheaded the campaign against Townshend. The CEO Evin Daly has received a great deal of support in his campaign to ask the NFL to hire what he has described as 'an entertainer who has not been a registered sex offender for Super Bowl.'
The NFL has come under increasing pressure to act. Pressure that will increase as Christian and the more outspoken pro-family groups get involved in the coming weeks. It is entirely conceivable that should Townshend continue to be included in the entertainment lineup that a boycott of the Super Bowl half time could be called for. One can only imagine the potential effect that will have on sponsors and adverting rates. The NFL has not responded to communications to date.
Child AbuseWatch Townshend file (Back-story, research and reference material)