As the state of Texas considers a bathroom bill that would ban transgender people from using the public bathrooms in which they feel most comfortable, the NFL has issued a reminder that such a law could affect future Super Bowls in the state.
The warning is a serious one. The NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona in 1990 when the state had not passed a law recognizing the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as a holiday and threatened to do so in 2014, when the state was considering a bill that would allow business owners to deny services to gay people for religious reasons.
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to the Houston Chronicle, reiterating a stance the league has taken before. “We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events, and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”
A spokesman for Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said his office is committed to “making sure that every Texan is welcomed” at sporting events. “Despite persistent misinformation in the media, under Senate Bill 6, all Texas teams will be able to set their own policies at the stadiums and arenas where they play and hold their events. There is no conflict with the NFL’s statement today and Senate Bill 6,” Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said (via CBS). Gov. Greg Abbott has been quieter on the issue.
The next open date for a Super Bowl is in 2022, with Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles having been awarded the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 games. Super Bowl XLV was held in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., in 2011 and Jerry Jones would no doubt love to host another soon.
A similar bill has had an economic impact in North Carolina, which lost the NBA All-Star Game, NCAA games and big-time concerts. San Antonio is set to host the Final Four in 2018 and Dallas is the site of the women’s Final Four in April. In 2015, the NCAA flexed its muscles over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay customers in the name of religious beliefs, just days before the Final Four.
In an interview at the time, Emmert said that the NCAA wants to hold its championship in an “inclusive” environment and “right now we’re not sure that we have that” in Indianapolis, which is also home to the NCAA’s headquarters. “We’re very serious about our core values and we want to make sure we can operate in an environment that is supportive of those values, so this is a very serious issue for us.”
That bill was revised.
It was only three years ago when this issue threatened a Super Bowl. As Super Bowl XLIX inched closer, the NFL was similarly clear about Arizona’s controversial bill over denying services for gay people. “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 email then. “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 host committee was less measured: “We do not support this legislation,” it said in a statement on its website. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.