Sandy Hook kids at Super Bowl: Honor or exploitation?

The 26 children will sing "America the Beautiful" during the pregame show of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Word that 26 students from Sandy Hook Elementary, scene of the nation's second-deadliest school massacre, will be performing during the Super Bowl pregame show on Sunday has parents and sports fans passionately debating whether the children are being exploited.

The 26 students —  one for each person killed in the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn. — are being flown to New Orleans by the NFL. They will sing "America the Beautiful" shortly before Alicia Keys performs the national anthem, a league spokesman confirmed to USA Today.

The event and the game will be broadcast live on CBS, and watched by millions of viewers at home and in the Superdome.

An anonymous donor provided money for the trip, according to the News-Times.

The news set off a flurry of debate on sports blogs and parenting forums about whether the NFL is taking advantage of a heart-wrenching tragedy.

"I get the complaint that it could be construed as exploitative, but the NFL has actually been connected to Sandy Hook since it happened," Sasha Brown-Worsham wrote in an article on CafeMom.

"First they held a moment of silence before each game in the week after Newtown. Players wore the names of the victims on various articles of their clothing, and there was always an air of sadness and respect. So why wouldn't they have the kids perform at the Super Bowl? It's a national, fun event, and while we have HAD to move on as a country, it also says that we're still grieving. It says the kids are in our hearts and that we haven't forgotten."

Brown-Worsham added: "There is nothing wrong with that sentiment. It's true."

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Others disagreed.

"That’s it, just exploit the crap out of those kids, of course then as soon as they are passé we will forget about them and move on to the next flavor," one commenter wrote on profootballtalk.com, an NBC Sports blog.

"This is almost as sad as when they started interviewing the children right after the shooting. I want to believe that this a sincere gesture, but in the end it comes down to getting more ratings more ads and more $," another reader wrote.

Added another: "I think they’re unnecessarily exposing these poor kids and the NFL should stay the hell away from the politics involved in this. Who’s singing the National Anthem… the NRA choir?"

One mother disagreed, commenting in the CafeMom blog:

"Of course they wouldn't be there if Sandy Hook didn't happen. But I see it as a beautiful way to honor and remember those children who lost their lives. It's like a living memorial. And like the Super Bowl really has to use this to 'boost their ratings.' That's just ridiculous. It's one of the most watched televised events each year."

Twenty children and six adults were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary by a 20-year-old gunman, who then committed suicide. It was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, which claimed 32 lives.

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