A NASCAR Super Bowl commercial starring Nick Offerman has already gotten over 4 million views on YouTube, but a brief joke it included about avoiding gluten has sparked anger in the celiac community.
In the ad, which aired immediately after the game, the Parks and Rec star says, "When our idea of danger is eating gluten, there's trouble afoot."
By this morning, nearly 18,000 people had signed a petition started last week asking NBC to remove the ad.
A man who goes by "Gluten Dude" started the petition, saying the commercial "makes fun of those who are gluten-free. It implies that we're soft."
"They pulled the GoDaddy spot for puppies. We're talking about human beings here," he told Adweek.
On the petition, he added, "I think about all of the gluten-free children getting bullied for being 'different,' when all they want to do is feel better and fit in."
"Are there gluten-free fakers out there that are part of the problem? Absolutely," he wrote. "But they are in the minority. And we are getting lumped in with them because of these media attacks. And I want it to stop."
When the line wasn't heard in the broadcast, many celebrated a major victory for gluten-free people everywhere.
But Tim Buckman, a spokesperson for NBC, told BuzzFeed News the gluten-free line was always only going to be heard in the extended online version of the ad.
A 30-second "teaser" that ran about four hours before the game started did include the gluten mention, however, which confused some viewers.
In a statement, he said:
The intent of our creative was to highlight NASCAR's return to NBC Sports in 2015 and celebrate the sport's fun and passionate following. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but we understand that it is hard to please everyone and apologize to anyone who took offense.
On his Facebook, Gluten Dude said that he wasn't counting on NBC to remove the ad, but wanted to make the celiac community heard.
Commenters on news stories about the issue and people on social media have been quick to express their disdain for the group’s sensitivity.
"I'm happy with the outcome and disgusted by some of the remarks left on all of the websites out there that have picked up this story," Gluten Dude told BuzzFeed News. "I'm sure none of these hateful folks even read why I started the petition."
He added that he's received "hundreds of emails from parents of children with celiac disease" thanking him for his appeal.
"I was not 'offended' by the ad and it has nothing to do with not having a sense of humor," he said. "It simply sent the wrong message and I didn't want to see any kids getting bullied Monday morning because their health relies on them eating gluten free."
Rachel Zarrell is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Rachel Zarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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