NFL Says Anti-LGBTQ Bill Could Cost Texas Future Super Bowls

The proposed legislation is similar to the North Carolina law that led the NBA, NCAA and ACC to move events out of the state.

The NFL took a strong stand Friday against proposed legislation in Texas that would prevent transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity, saying the bill could potentially keep the state from hosting future Super Bowls.

“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,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Houston Chronicle on Friday, just days after Houston hosted Super Bowl LI.

“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” McCarthy said. “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.”

The Texas legislation ― known officially as the Texas Privacy Act, or SB6 ― was introduced in January and is similar to a law passed last year in North Carolina. That law cost North Carolina multiple high-profile sporting events: the NBA pulled its All-Star Game out of Charlotte, while the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference each moved several championship events ― including NCAA Tournament games and the ACC’s football title game ― out of North Carolina.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has expressed interest in bringing the Super Bowl back to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium when the next round of bidding begins. Jones has also said he wants to bring the NFL Draft to a new Cowboys facility in Frisco. 

The legislation could complicate those plans. A Cowboys spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation or its potential effect on Jones’ desire to host those events. 

Texas is also scheduled to host multiple major NCAA and Big XII conference events over the next two years.

Dallas will host the 2017 women’s basketball Final Four in April and early-round men’s NCAA Tournament games in 2018. San Antonio will host the 2018 men’s basketball Final Four. AT&T Stadium will host the Big XII Conference’s football championship later this year, and the NCAA and Big XII also regularly hold championship events for other sports in the state.

The Big XII office is “tracking” the legislation “and will discuss [it] with our membership at an appropriate time,” Bob Burda, the Big XII associate commissioner for communications, said in an email Friday.

It is likely too late to alter plans for major events scheduled for this spring. It is unclear how the legislation, should it pass, would affect the NCAA’s future plans. 

The NCAA last year began requiring prospective host cities to fill out a survey that included questions about how they would protect students, fans and players from discrimination during and around events.

This week, the North Carolina Sports Association, a nonprofit group that promotes sports and recreation in the state, urged lawmakers there to repeal its version of the law in order to attract sporting events back to Charlotte and other North Carolina cities. The NCAA is currently considering host sites for championship events through 2022, and the failure to repeal the law, the North Carolina Sports Association warned, could cost the state NCAA events for the next six years.

Asked about the Texas legislation, an NCAA spokesperson reiterated the message it sent in response to the North Carolina Sports Association letter, saying that it has not yet determined future championship sites but expects to in April. North Carolina, the spokesperson noted, remains the only state where the NCAA has moved events due to discrimination concerns.

None of Texas’ three NBA teams are scheduled to host the league’s All-Star Game in the coming years. But the NBA’s stance on North Carolina’s law ― it has said it won’t return to Charlotte as long as it remains in effect ― means that approval of the anti-transgender bill would likely also doom the prospects of the event returning to Texas at any point in the foreseeable future. 

Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (R) and the 14 Republicans sponsoring the bill this week vowed to push forward with SB6, over the objections of business leaders within the state. On Monday, Patrick dismissed those objections as “fear-mongering.”