NFL throws weight around on political field, combats inequality
The National Football League (NFL) has been an integral part of American culture for a very long time. It creates divides among states and unites citizens in a way that not many other organizations can. Growing up in Texas, it was always very present in my home. Sunday plans at my dad’s house almost always revolved around what team was playing who and when. For most people, myself included, football creates a connection between families. Moms, dads, and children alike put on jerseys and head to stadiums. It’s pretty safe to say that the NFL has a lot of weight in America, and you could probably sooner disband the United States government before you could disband the NFL. The NFL is not ignorant to the weight that its name carries, which is why I was excited to hear about the league deciding not to support states that choose to pass laws that are homophobic, transphobic, racist, or marginalizing in any way.
House Bill 757, , a “religious liberty” bill, was recently introduced to Georgia legislature and only needs a signature from Governor Nathan Deal before its anti-gay, discriminatory policies can be enforced. This bill will not only allow certain institutions to deny marriages to gay couples, but it would allow faith-based organizations to have the option of not hiring someone based on whether or not their sexual orientation aligns with the organization’s religious views. It wasn’t long before the NFL caught wind of this legislation and strongly hinted that Atlanta’s name would be taken out of consideration for hosting either the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl if the bill passes. This would come following a new renovation of the Falcons’ stadium that is already set to dig deeply into taxpayer money.
While no final decisions have been made yet by either Deal or the NFL, this would not be the first time that the NFL has had a major hand in state legislation. In 2014, Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062, a bill that is similar in nature and language to Bill 757, after facing a lot of criticism from several large corporations, but most notably the NFL. Prior to the veto, the NFL released a statement saying “our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.” This put Phoenix at risk of losing the 2015 Super Bowl as the NFL closely monitored the progression of the bill. While there were also several other factors that contributed to the bill’s fate, it’s hard for a governor to turn a blind eye to the revenue that hosting a Super Bowl brings.
Similar conversations circled around my own hometown of Houston after the disappointing rejection of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) bill. This bill would have made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on things such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Despite having such a large LGBTQ+ population and having a lesbian mayor at the time, smear campaigns that claimed this bill would make it possible for men to enter women’s bathrooms and a lack of young voter turnout led to the ultimate rejection of the bill. As of now, Houston is still set to host the 2017 Super Bowl, but the NFL has made it clear that they do not agree with the law’s rejection and will strive to make sure their fans feel welcomed at the game.
The NFL is taking a stand against cities that choose to discriminate. While it might not be the sole reason that these kinds of bills have been rejected, it definitely puts pressure on governors to consider how the loss of the Super Bowl would impact their economies. While the NFL is not perfect and definitely has several internal problems, such as perpetuating one single idea of masculinity and not properly addressing how brain damage caused by football can lead to mental illness, they are trying. They’re taking a stand against discrimination, which I think is very admirable. I love the NFL. I love that players wear pink during breast cancer awareness month, I love all the initiatives they have that allow inner city kids to meet with and learn from current players, and I love that it is something we can participate in as a country no matter how different we are. The NFL is using its power and its voice to take a stand and while some southern, conservative dads might not agree with the NFL’s stance, they’ll hopefully at least pay more attention to the problem if the NFL is talking about it.