The National Football League waited just a week after the Super Bowl in Houston to warn the state of Texas that a proposal to limit transgender access to bathrooms could impact future decisions about the location of major sporting events.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the league hinted that Senate Bill 6, introduced last month by conservative lawmakers, would become a factor in the NFL’s future decisions about event locations.
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness. 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,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law [in Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
After this year’s event in Houston, the NFL does not have a Super Bowl planned for Texas in the foreseeable future. Super Bowls have been scheduled in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles through 2021.
But opponents of the legislation, modeled on the controversial HB 2 law passed in North Carolina last year, say the NFL’s threat is just the tip of the iceberg. Several sports leagues, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, the NBA and the NCAA, pulled events out of North Carolina after its law passed last year, and a number of businesses said they would cancel or reevaluate decisions to move operations or build facilities in North Carolina.
The NCAA has not weighed in on the Texas legislation. The finals of the NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament are scheduled for San Antonio in 2018.
Supporters of the measure, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and its chief sponsor, state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R), said their bill has carve-outs that address concerns raised by the NCAA and the NFL.
“I completely share the sentiments of the NFL. That’s why the Texas Privacy Act ensures that our state continues the same welcoming environment we all enjoy at NFL events,” Kolkhorst said in an emailed statement. Kolkhorst pointed to Houston itself, where voters repealed a law allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of their choice in 2015.
The Texas Association of Business, the state’s largest chamber of commerce, opposes SB 6, a key priority of Lt. Gov. Patrick. The group said Texas risks losing more than $8 billion in business investments if the measure passes, though fact-checking organizations have cast doubt on their math. A part of the association’s calculations assumed that the NFL would yank the Super Bowl out of Houston, which didn’t happen.