Arizona has a history of quite literally paying for their discrimination—in 1990, for instance, the NFL decided to relocate the 1993 Super Bowl because of Arizona’s refusal to make Martin Luther King Day an official state holiday.
The NFL’s subsequent move to LA for the Super Bowl caused Arizona to lose out on at least $5 million.
Now the Super Bowl is once more weighing in as a political factor while the bill awaits Governor Jan Brewer’s signature.
The creators of SB 1062 have labeled the controversial legislation a “religious freedom” bill, which will allow any businesses to use legitimate religious beliefs as a basis for refusing service to the LGBT community, amongst others, without ensuing legal issues.
When the NFL first made its decision in 1990, then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue said, “I do not believe playing Super Bowl XXVII in Arizona is in the best interest of the National Football League. Arizona can continue its political debate without the Super Bowl as a factor.”
This time, as the bill sits on Jan Brewer’s desk, the NFL and Super Bowl hosts remain adamant on their ideas of discrimination.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email statement, “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. 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 Super Bowl host committee also gave their viewpoint: “We share the NFL’s core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination. In addition, a key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona. On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state’s economic growth potential.”
The Super Bowl is set to kick off on February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. However, many local businesses have expressed their fears that the bill could lead to boycotts at the Super Bowl, with some companies considering relocating if the legislation is signed.
Momentum against the discriminatory legislation picked up recently when business owners sent a letter asking Brewer to veto the bill, as it hurt employment, allows a higher risk of lawsuits and has already begun to harm Arizona’s economy. Tech giant Apple also urged her to veto, as have a number of Republican senators, including John McCain, Jeff Flake, and even Mitt Romney.
Following University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out earlier in February, the NFL is currently facing public scrutiny themselves. If drafted in April, against the wishes of at least a vocal few, Sam would become the first openly gay player in NFL history.
Brewer has until Saturday, March 1, to make a decision on the bill.