AUSTIN, Texas - The NFL sharpened its warning to Texas on Friday about a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people, suggesting for the first time that the football-crazed state could miss out on hosting another Super Bowl if the proposal is enacted.
“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in response to an email question about the Texas bill.
Although the NFL released a statement about inclusiveness earlier this month prior to the Super Bowl in Houston, it didn’t address whether the bill could put future such events at risk for the state.
The NFL has selected future Super Bowl sites through 2021, none of which are in Texas. Dallas hosted the game in 2011 and three Super Bowls have been played in Texas since 2004, which is second only to Florida.
Under the Texas bill, people would be required to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. It’s similar to a North Carolina law that prompted the NCAA to pull seven championship events from that state last year and is backed by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a powerful figure in the state who had cited the Houston Super Bowl as proof that big events will stick around.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been quieter on the proposal and, noticeably, never mentioned bathrooms while laying out his legislative agenda last month.
Following the NFL statement, Patrick’s office signaled it was remaining firm and was committed to “making sure that every Texas is welcomed” at sporting events.
“Despite persistent misinformation in the media, under Senate Bill 6, all Texas teams will be able to set their own policies at the stadiums and arenas where they play and hold their events. There is no conflict with the NFL’s statement today and Senate Bill 6,” Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said.
The NCAA has declined comment so far since the Texas bill was filed last month. Since 2004, Texas has hosted more combined Super Bowls, NBA All-Star Games (three) and NCAA men’s Final Fours (five) than any other state. San Antonio is scheduled to host another Final Four in 2018, and Dallas is hosting the women’s NCAA Final Four in April.
Unlike the North Carolina law, the Texas proposal stops short of some provisions the NCAA singled out when defending its decision to relocate events last fall. That includes language that invalidates local equal-rights ordinances, although there is separate legislation in Texas that could have similar effects.
The NFL has issued similar warnings before about state legislation that critics say invites discrimination. In 2015, Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill that the NFL suggested could result in Atlanta being passed over for Super Bowls.
CBS Austin affiliate KEYE’s Jordan Bontke reported on how the pending bathroom bill could affect the state’s economy. He spoke with Texas Competes, a group that looks at Texas’ data to determine the economic health of the state.
“Sports and tourism folks in North Carolina say this has been devastating for them,” said Jessica Shortall of Texas Competes when talking about HB2 bathroom bill.
Shortall said tourism is the second largest industry in Texas, behind oil and gas, and half of the tourism revenue each year comes from outside visitors.
“When an event is canceled, hotel rooms sit empty, that doesn’t mean the hotel loses revenue, it means the local restaurants and bars, the family that own a parking lot or garage, they lose revenue,” said Shortall.