HB757, the latest religious freedom bill to be passed by Republicans, this time in the state of Georgia, has met with opposition in a form that may come as a surprise for many a Georgian football fan. Though the Governor, Nathan Deal, has yet to sign the bill into law, the NFL has already issued statements that it would not take kindly to the passage of a law discriminating against the LGBTQ community.
From league spokesman Brian McCarthy: “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”
There is a precedent to show that the NFL would likely not play at the still unfinished $1 billion dollar stadium in Atlanta if HB757 becomes law, as they have relocated their venue to Los Angeles when Arizona failed to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday in 1993.
The NFL also made it known that it would not play in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX, between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, if the state passed a similar religious freedom law in 2014. Surprisingly perhaps, the Governor of Arizona at that time, Jan Brewer, must have taken the voices of many business owners to heart, and, under great pressure, vetoed the bill. The Super Bowl went on to take place at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Jan Brewer had been well-known as a person who stood firmly against same-sex marriage and was furious when it came to Arizona.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has shown in the past that he is fully invested in the Falcons new stadium, having allocated $23 million for parking facilities at the stadium in the state budget in 2015. In 2013, he had also made the news when Los Angeles leaders were attempting to woo the Falcons to relocating there. “It’s incumbent on us to make sure we don’t lose the franchise,” Deal said.
Governor Deal has apparently flip-flopped on the issue of HB757. Only days ago he had made these statements to reporters:
“We do not have a belief, in my way of looking at religion, that says that we have to discriminate against anybody.”
“I think what the New Testament teaches us, is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered outcasts.”
“I don’t think that we have to have anything that allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.”
This statement would seem to give a lot of encouragement, but then following the passage of the bill by the Legislature, he seems to have backtracked, stating that he was “pleasantly surprised” at the passage of the bill. He also referred to it as a “monumental piece of legislation,” and that it would be a tough decision for him:
“I have heard from both sides and I’m sure I’ll continue to hear from both sides.” “I will take their opinions into consideration, and I’ll do what I’m required to do: Which is to make the difficult decision on a very difficult subject.”
But how difficult can the subject be, considering his previous statements about Jesus? Will Governor Deal make a deal with the devil, and allow the bill to pass? Will he stand by his own words about his religion, and see that Jesus himself would not advocate for this kind of law? Or will it come down to the fact that business leaders, and the NFL will be putting pressure on the state, and on him, not to create a climate where the LGBT population, who aren’t protected in the state, will be all the more vulnerable to being targeted for discrimination and violence in Georgia?
Will the good ole’ boy love of all-American football win out in the end, and give them motivation not to be assholes? Or will the motivation be out of common decency and common sense? We will be finding out soon enough, as the Governor is expected to respond sometime in April. LGBT Americans, their allies, and strangely enough, Georgian football fans may be watching in suspense for the outcome. Who knew that football, of all things, would be such a force for Civil Rights in the USA?
Join Georgia Unites, in telling Governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill.
See the fabulous stadium that may work with Jesus to prevent discrimination in Georgia: