Super Bowl LI might have been the last time the NFL brings football’s biggest game to Texas.
Less than one week after the New England Patriots staged their historic comeback, beating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at Houston’s NRG Stadium, the league expressed its concern that 15 Republican senators from Texas have pledged their support of a bill that would require transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate — not the one they feel most comfortable using.
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to The Houston Chronicle, responding to the proposed Texas Privacy Act, formally known as Senate Bill 6. “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.”
About a week later, the NBA weighed in, issuing a statement to FOX Business via league spokesman Mike Bass: “We consider a wide range of factors when making decisions about host locations for league-wide events like the All-Star Game – foremost among them is ensuring the environment where those who participate and attend are treated fairly and equally.”
The NFL needs to “concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck, responding to McCarthy’s statement. “For some low-level NFL adviser to come out and say that they are going to micromanage and try to dictate to the state of Texas what types of policies we’re going to pass in our state, that’s unacceptable. We don’t care what the NFL thinks.”
Regardless of what the NFL thinks, a study conducted by the Texas Association of Business suggests that if the bill becomes law, the state could suffer up to $8.5 billion in economic losses.
Think that’s overreacting? Consider the ramifications of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which took a long and complicated journey to becoming law in March 2016. After state lawmakers voted to prevent local governments from setting and implementing anti-discrimination and employment policies — including bathroom policies for transgender citizens — several major sports organizations pulled their championships and other high-profile events out of North Carolina. That list includes the NBA All-Star Game, NCAA basketball tournament rounds and the Atlantic Coast Conference football title game. All told, North Carolina lost 17 NCAA and ACC events for the current academic year because of the law.
A letter to lawmakers from Scott Dupree, executive director of Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, sent earlier this month states that North Carolina municipalities and universities have submitted 133 bids for events that will be held between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 academic years — representing more than $250 million in business. “All North Carolina bids will be pulled from the review process and removed from consideration” unless HB2 is repealed, Dupree’s letter warned.
Four student-athletes from North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State and Wake Forest — all members of the ACC’s student athletic advisory panel and— in favor of a more inclusive competitive environment also wrote to state lawmakers urging for change:
All of us have professors, coaches, fans, teammates, friends and family members who are adversely affected by the language of this bill, but we are calling on lawmakers to recognize that this is no longer a partisan issue of political ideology. This is a matter of survival, of civic responsibility and seriously considering what it means to serve the interests of North Carolina.
In late 2016, Forbes reported that HB2 has cost the North Carolina at least $630 million in lost business since last March.
Might Texas wind up in the same situation? That’s up to the state’s lawmakers. But this much is clear: The NFL already has determined the Super Bowl sites for the next four years — beginning with Minneapolis in 2018 and concluding with Los Angeles in 2021 — and none of them are located in Texas.