NEW YORK — Nine Nobel Peace Prize winners are speaking out against a new NBC competition series they say treats military maneuvers like athletic events.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the other Nobel laureates protested in an open letter that the show, "Stars Earn Stripes," glorifies war and armed violence.
The series, which premiered on Monday night, pairs celebrities with inactive U.S. military personnel for simulated military challenges. Celebrity participants include boxing champion Laila Ali, Superman actor Dean Cain, Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, Todd Palin.
The program is hosted by retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.
"I'm doing this series for one reason," says Clark at the top of the show – "to introduce you, the American people, to the individuals that sacrifice so much for all of us."
The series is billed on its website as a "fast-paced competition" whose contestants "will gather at a remote training facility where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises."
"Stars Earn Stripes" says it "pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces and our first-responder services."
The letter, sent Monday to Clark, NBC boss Robert Greenblatt, producer Mark Burnett and others connected with the show, argues "this program pays homage to no one anywhere" and criticizes it for "trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition."
The letter calls for NBC to stop airing the series.
NBC, responding to the charges, said that "Stars Earn Stripes" is "about thanking the young Americans who are in harm's way every day."
"This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service," NBC said in a statement.
Besides Tutu, signers of the letter are Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Betty Williams.
The Nobel laureates also declared their support for a protest against the show outside NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters in Manhattan on Monday.