Super Bowl host committee speaks out against controversial Arizona bill, joining Apple and American Airlines


A scene from the aftermath of this month’s Super Bowl, held in New Jersey. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The controversial bill that would allow Arizona businesses to refuse service to gay people due to religious objections has gained several high-profile opponents recently, with businesses and politicians alike calling for Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto it this week.

And one key point looms over the debate like a colossus that could be worth half a billion dollars for the state: Arizona is hosting the Super Bowl next year. Business groups are worried that the NFL championship game and its related events could face boycotts if the bill passes.

The Super Bowl host committee spoke out on Monday, saying that while the Super Bowl is meant to promote the state’s economy, the committee had heard from stakeholders that the bill would “deal a significant blow” to potential economic growth in Arizona.

“We do not support this legislation,” the committee said in a written statement.

The NFL also commented for the first time on the bill, not going so far as to express sentiment for or against the bill, but noting that the league would be monitoring the issue.

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an emailed statement. “We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”

The NFL has weighed in on a controversy in Arizona before. The league had awarded the 1993 Super Bowl to Tempe, Ariz., but took the game away after the state didn’t create a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (After the state finally created such a holiday, the Super Bowl came to Arizona in 1996 and again in 2008.)

Business groups in Arizona as well as the state’s U.S. senators have come out against the legislation. Apple, which is preparing to open a new manufacturing plant in the state, asked Brewer to veto the bill, as did American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker (who was chief executive of Arizona-based US Airways before that airline merged with American, which is based in Texas). Three Republican state senators who had voted for the bill have reversed course and are now asking Brewer to veto it.

Brewer hasn’t said publicly whether she will veto or sign the legislation, but NBC News reported Tuesday morning that she is likely to veto the bill. “I will do the right thing for Arizona,” she told CNN on Monday night.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman · February 25