How Georgia's anti-LGBT bill could help Tampa land Super Bowl
Tampa’s chances of hosting a future Super Bowl may improve if Georgia moves forward with a controversial anti-LGBT bill.
The bill, which already passed both chambers of Georgia’s legislature and now sits on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, supposedly protects faith-based organizations and businesses from having to provide services that contradict with a “sincerely held religious belief.” In practice, it allows religious nonprofit organizations to fire LGBT employees and to prohibit homosexuals from using their facilities for a gay wedding. It also says no one can be forced to attend a gay marriage.
If Deal signs the bill into law, it could cost the state a Super Bowl, the NFL told the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Friday, in not so few words. Atlanta is on the short list of cities to host a Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.
“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and any other improper standard,” the league said in the statement. “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.”
Why is that of interest to Tampa? Because the city is also in consideration to host those Super Bowls, along with Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans. Atlanta was thought to be a favorite for one of the games because the Atlanta Falcons are building a new stadium and the NFL typically rewards teams the opportunity to showcase their new digs soon after the facility opens. Atlanta’s stadium will be completed in 2017.
But this bill, if signed, could change Atlanta’s outlook. Think the NFL is bluffing? Arizona didn’t think so. Then-Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar anti-LGBT bill that passed the legislature after the NFL threatened to move the 2015 Super Bowl and other large businesses added pressure. And, as Deadspin notes, the NFL moved the Super Bowl from Arizona in 1993 to Los Angeles because the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Deal hasn't said if he'll sign the bill, which lawmakers passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits states from banning gay marriage. He has until May 3 to decide.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the taxpayer funded Tampa Sports Authority are hoping their own $86 million renovation of Raymond James Stadium helps position the area to win the nation’s top sporting event by the end of the decade. A decision on who will host is expected in the coming months. What happens in Georgia could give Tampa a better shot at it.