Arizona is at risk of losing the chance to serve as host state for Super Bowl XLIX, over human rights. This should feel like deja vu for the state. They almost lost the opportunity as they held out as the last state in the country to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a legal holiday. The elephant in the room that time was an affront to people of color, black people specifically. Arizona followed up with stiff immigration laws that placed brown-skinned people at risk. Many were unlawfully deported and families ripped apart due to abject racism.
In the words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.” The issues this time still involve human rights, those of LGBT people. Arizona Governor. Jan Brewer has a decision to make and soon. This Saturday she will either veto the bill or sign it into law. If she does the latter, Arizona business owners will not have to serve LGBT people, based on their personal religious beliefs. It hasn’t been determined just how restaurants that serve up fare that nourishes the body will know who which patrons are gay, lesbian, bi-attracted, or transgender.
It is hurtful to think about how far this bill that may become a law will turn the fight for human rights and equality back. Far reaching enough if passed, it promises to ring of Jim Crow, and laws that affected black people in every facet of their lives. Jim Crow was enforced by people who chose to do things out of ignorance and hate like refusing to seat blacks at establishments where they spent money as customers even though, purchased food had to be carried out in greasy paper bags after being ordered through back doors. With this measure, service refusal will again be law.
If Gov. Brewer approves the bill Arizona better be ready to deal with the backlash. Greg Aiello, spoke for NFL stated with USA Today, “Our polices emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination.” Aiello includes, discrimination based on age, gender race, religion, and sexual orientation. He says, the NFL will remain consistent with current policies regardless of how the bill situation turns out. The NFL is being straight forward about how they will proceed, and it is clear that Arizona is at risk for losing the spot as Super Bowl host, over equality and human rights.
The Arizona dispute happens as the NFL welcomes Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player. The timing is uncanny and offers the state of Arizona an opportunity to soften the view many around the country have of previous decisions the state’s lawmakers have made around human rights. Decisions, which have impacted treatment residents and visitors to the state have had to incur.
Arizona showed with the King holiday holdout that when money is involved, tolerance can be extended. However, when things are done begrudgingly handling business returns to normal rather quickly. Signing an anti-gay bill into law will not make things better for Arizona. In fact, doing so will make it harder to attract not only grand scale football, but young people with fresh ideas who believe in equality. As debate over the bill continues, and decision-making time draws closer, Arizona, should consider being at risk of losing the Super Bowl host spot, and of burying another opportunity to stand for human rights.
By C. Imani Williams