In early 2014, the NFL considered alternatives to staging the 2015 Super Bowl in Arizona as Arizona considered passing a law that would have permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
With voters rejecting on Tuesday the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on Tuesday by an overwhelming margin of 61 to 39 percent, city leaders are bracing for blowback in various forms. But it won’t include the removal of the Super Bowl.
“This will not affect our plans for Super Bowl LI in 2017,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT. “We will work closely with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to make sure all fans feel welcomed at our events. Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”
In May 2015, Houston City Council passed a law banning discrimination on a wide variety of characteristics, including race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The Texas Supreme Court later ordered that the measure must be repealed or placed on a public ballot.
Prior to the vote, Texans owner Bob McNair rescinded a $10,000 donation that he made to the Campaign for Houston, a group that framed the issue narrowly with this catch phrase: “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.”
McNair claimed that the Campaign for Houston “made unauthorized statements” about his opposition to HERO, but his support for the Campaign for Houston said everything that needed to be said. Since the group specifically existed to oppose HERO because it viewed the measure as an effort to “make ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identification’ two new protected classes,” any support of the Campaign for Houston necessarily became opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
A petition at Change.org already has been launched to move the Super Bowl from Houston. It won’t be easy to get the NFL’s attention, because the NFL already intends to move forward with its plans, regardless of the outcome of the HERO vote.