Gluten-Free and a Super Bowl Ad

It’s been a tough week if you are gluten free.

In the latest salvo against the diet, a pre-released Super Bowl ad for NASCAR features the actor who plays Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec demeaning those who are gluten free as being soft.

“When our idea of danger is eating gluten, there’s trouble a foot,” he says standing in front of an American flag, wearing a flag shirt. “Yes, we the people have gotten soft.”

The commercial is titled, “America, It’s time for a gut check.” I’m not sure the writers even picked on this irony.

What’s even more ironic is that fact that those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are anything but soft. They have to negotiate a world in which so many foods taken for granted by the Ron Swanson’s of the world are a true danger.

Message to NASCAR, gluten is dangerous if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. With all the attention focused on gluten free, how can anyone have not gotten the message that the protein that’s innocuous to most is poison to some?

Like many writing about this commercial controversy, I am tired of the whole, “let’s kick gluten free around” mentality.

It was on display just a week ago on the Morning Joe show when comedian Joy Behar, in one of the strangest non sequiturs I’ve heard, launched into a diatribe condemning those who are gluten free and challenging how many people really have celiac disease. She had no idea what the number is, but she went after it anyway.

I’ve been a part of the gluten-free community for more than two decades. I know what it was like when no one attacked gluten free because no one had ever heard of it. Nearly everything you ate had to be prepared at home, from scratch. No restaurants had gluten-free menus, and you did the best you could to get a plain, safe meal just so you could go out like other people.

While those days presented challenges, you were able to make your gluten-free way in the world without sarcasm and sneering. I made nearly every slice of bread my daughter, who has celiac disease, ate from when she was 2 years old to nearly 20. And sometimes it was tiring.

But it did not wear me down the way these attacks do. I don’t write about every single one because it would take up so much of the time I’d rather spend writing about things that improve the lives of those who are gluten free.

But this commercial will be widely seen if it’s played before and after the Super Bowl as planned. I couldn’t just ignore it.

Soft? Try growing up and never being able to just eat the food the others kids do and having to explain your diet everywhere you go. Try managing business trips and vacations around a diet that can easily box you into eating only in your home because you don’t otherwise feel safe. Try going to a wedding or a party.

All this can be managed, but it takes a certain kind of inner strength to do it graciously. And it is exhausting to have to add defending yourself to the mix.

Interestingly, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is involved in another Super Bowl ad controversy. Public outcry prompted Go Daddy, which sponsors Patrick in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, to yank a commercial in which she appears.

The storyline follows a puppy that bounces out of the back of pickup truck, makes its way home through wind and rain, only to be loaded into a Patrick-driven van because it was sold online while away. Go Daddy pulled the ad one day after 42,000 people signed a petition asking that it be removed.

Now you can do the same thing to get rid of the NSACAR ad that puts down people who are gluten free. Gluten-free blogger, The Gluten Dude, has started a petition here.

Sign it to show NASCAR just how strong the gluten-free community can be.

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