Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida, we hear you want to host the Super Bowl--one of the most iconic and lucrative sports event in country. Congratulations, you've made it to the finals for states in the running for the 2019 and 2020 bidding process. You have a city with an established NFL franchise and/or a franchise with a new or recently remodeled stadium. You also have a host city with the infrastructure to handle the Super Bowl's influx of players, fans, coaches, and media.
But, do you play fair?
Louisiana, your record on civil rights is abysmal, LGBT rights especially. Governor Jindal just made an unprecedented move, authorizing LGBT discrimination via Executive Order. Now, LGBT people in Louisiana can be legally discriminated against on a broader scale. In most of Louisiana, LGBT people can be fired, evicted, or denied equal access to public accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even your LGBT youth are left exposed to heightened discrimination as Louisiana refuses to join other states in passing LGBT anti-bullying legislation. What does the Super Bowl look like in your state? LGBT families being turned away from restaurants and hotels and young LGBT fans at risk of harassment.
Georgia, you also do not have any statewide protections for LGBT people. In fact, Georgia just tried to pass an anti-LGBT religious refusal law much like the one we saw in Indiana. The only reason this bill did not pass is because, at the last minute, a few fair-minded legislators tried to strip at least some of the hate from this bill. They amended the bill to ensure it would not supersede existing LGBT protections at the local level. But, rather than letting the bill pass with this limited LGBT protective carve-out, the majority chose to table it. And, they've already promised to bring it back up for a vote again next year.
Florida, like Louisiana and Georgia, you have no statewide protections for LGBT people. Plus you already have a religious exemption law that could be used to allow discrimination. You also came dangerously close to passing a bill that would have allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families. And a bill that would have made it more dangerous for transgender visitors and fans to use the restroom at the big game actually made it through two committees.
You might feel that because the cities bidding for the Super Bowl--New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, and Miami--have respectable scores in HRC's Municipal Equality Index, the discriminatory laws of the state will not matter. But even the progressive laws of Phoenix and Indianapolis did not stave off backlash and boycotts when their state legislatures passed a discriminatory anti-LGBT law. Given the direction your state legislatures have been moving recently, attempting to carve out special exceptions to permit anti-LGBT discrimination, each city's LGBT protections might be trumped by a discriminatory state law that overrides local protections by 2019 or 2020. And remember, the host city hosts the game, but the state still benefits from the revenue and recognition that comes with hosting the biggest sports event in the country.
Any state that does not actively practice fair play, especially with civil rights, should not have the honor, privilege, and revenue associated with the Super Bowl or any other iconic sports event. Discrimination, bullying, and inequality are inconsistent with the principles of sport. Sport values inclusion, equality, and fairness. While the NFL espouses these values, the Super Bowl bidding process does not yet formally assess whether a potential host site lives up to them. Nonetheless, anti-LGBT laws aren't helping your chances. For example, in 2014, the Super Bowl Committee signaled it might remove the Super Bowl from Arizona if the state's proposed anti-LGBT religious refusal bill was enacted. That move was considered among the most impactful on Jan Brewer's decision to veto the bill.
So, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida, it's time to step-up your equality game. If you don't play fair, you may not play at all.
The discriminatory actions of your state legislatures could potentially cost you. It's time for fair-minded leaders to go on offense when it comes to equality. Sports and business communities, now is the time to use your influence to ensure discriminatory laws are not enacted. Speak out against discriminatory laws that will hurt players, fans, your economy, and possibly your chances of hosting the Super Bowl.
But don't stop there; be proactive. Take this opportunity to help create statewide protections for LGBT people. Make your state more desirable for travel and major sporting events.
Or sit back, do nothing, and risk being left behind in the bidding process and in history.