One of the most popular commercials during this year’s Super Bowl featured a pro-adoption, pro-life message – and a faith-driven athlete.
The ad by Toyota spotlighted American swimmer Jessica Long, who has won 13 Paralympic gold medals. She was born in Russia in 1992 but was adopted – along with her brother – by an American family when she was one. Shortly thereafter, her legs were amputated below the knee due to a medical condition.
The ad shows Long swimming in the water as her life’s story is told. The viewer hears a recreated conversation between actresses playing her mother and an adoption agency worker. Throughout the commercial, the viewer also sees a recreation of Long as a child learning to walk and then swim.
“Mrs. Long, we’ve found a baby girl for your adoption, but there are some things you need to know,” the adoption worker in the ad says in a phone conversation. “She’s in Siberia. She was born with a rare condition. Her legs will need to be amputated.”
The worker continues: “Her life, it won’t be easy.”
Her mother then tells the worker, “It might not be easy, but it will be amazing. I can’t wait to meet her.”
The ad ends with words on the screen: “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”
National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis called it “the most touching ad during the Super Bowl” and “an homage both to the beauty of adoption and the dignity of every life.”
Long, a Christian, spoke to Sports Spectrum last year about her faith. Long also was featured in a 2020 video by I Am Second, an organization that spotlights the faith journeys of well-known individuals.
She said in the Sports Spectrum Podcast she grew up in a Christian household but didn’t accept Christ until she was living on her own.
“I was living at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs [and] training,” she told Sports Spectrum. “... I had won gold medals. I had signed a deal with Nike. I had a Coca Cola commercial. I walked red carpets with celebrities. I mean, I had done all these worldly amazing things. And it never felt good enough, no matter what, I just never felt enough.”
Long said she learned that a gold medal is “not going to fulfill you.”
She accepted Christ in 2013.
“The big thing that I kept saying was I wanted to give God my whole heart and not just part of me,” she said. “I didn't want to give him just my Sundays or my weekends.”
Long said she wanted to give Christ “all of me.” She views her success as a “platform” to share her story.
“I wanted to be a part of God's family and not fight Him all the time,” she said.
Long will swim in the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, which will be held Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
Photo courtesy: ©Toyota USA
Video courtesy: ©Toyota USA
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.