Arizona’s state legislature has passed SB 1062, a bill that secures the right for business owners in the Grand Canyon State to refuse service to any customer based on religious belief. The right says the law promotes religious freedom, while the left criticizes the bill as being anti-gay. Now the NFL has weighed in and the possibility that Arizona might lose Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 is very real should the proposed legislation become law.
The NFL has been diligent to declare its policy of tolerance in wake of the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin debacle and in light of potentially having its first openly gay player next year in Michael Sam. Greg Aiello, representative of the league, released a statement saying, “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.” On the surface this sounds subtle, but the fact that a statement is being released at all speaks volumes.
Superbowl XLIX is scheduled to be hosted at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, but just by issuing the statement it seems the NFL will refuse to play ball for the Lombardi Trophy in Arizona if the bill passes.
This isn’t the first time the National Football League has used the Superbowl as leverage in a political issue. In 2006 Paul Tagliabue, who was the NFL commissioner at the time, announced that Super Bowl XLIX would be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri. That commitment fell through when a tax that would provide revenue to construct a rolling roof between Arrowhead, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, and nearby Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, failed to pass. In October of 2011, Super Bowl XLIX was instead awarded to Arizona.
The decision now lies in the hands of Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, on whether or not to sign SB 1062 into law. Brewer, a notable Republican on the national stage, has had more than her share of controversy while in office. In 2010 she signed legislation into law that makes it illegal for immigrants to be in Arizona without registration papers. Conservatives applauded while liberals said the law allowed police to racially profile suspected immigrants. Brewer was also in opposition to the passage and implementation of Obamacare and made more national headlines when she was notoriously photographed wagging her finger at the President while receiving him on an airport tarmac in Phoenix in 2012. Again, conservatives applauded and liberals were outraged. Later in that year, however, Brewer supported Obamacare’s medicaid expansion in Arizona, which brought federal money into her state, and vetoed every other bill that reached her desk until the Republican-run state legislature approved. This time it was the conservatives who were outraged.
Conservatives are upset again, but this time the firestorm is brewing on the christian fringe of the Republican party, while both of the Republican senators from Arizona, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are publicly advocating for a veto from the Governor of SB 1062. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has called for a veto as well, along with a slew of Arizona business leaders, many of them Republicans as well.
With pressure coming from both sides of the aisle to veto the bill and the NFL’s threat to move the 2015 Super Bowl out of Arizona over what they see as anti-gay legislation, it’s unlikely Brewer will sign SB 1062 into law.
By Matt Stinson