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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants the NFL to keep its nose out of the state's business, saying that it should "get the heck out of politics" as the state considers a so-called bathroom bill.
"The NFL is walking on thin ice right here," Abbott said on Glenn Beck's radio show Tuesday. "The NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics."
Abbott was reacting to a league statement shortly after Super Bowl LI in Houston in which it said that it "embraces inclusiveness" even as Texas considers a bill that would require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender at birth.
"We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to the Houston Chronicle, "and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard."
McCarthy was more explicit about future Super Bowls in Texas, writing in an email to CBS: "If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events."
The NFL has moved a Super Bowl before for political reasons, pulling out of Arizona in the early '90s when that state did not recognize the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King as a holiday. Only three years ago, a political issue threatened Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona and the NFL was similarly clear about Arizona's controversial bill that would allow businesses to deny services to gay people for religious reasons. "Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email then. "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." The host committee was less measured: "We do not support this legislation," it said in a statement on its website, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill and the game went on in Arizona.
The next open date for a Super Bowl is in 2022, with Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles having been awarded the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 games. Super Bowl XLV was held in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., in 2011 and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would no doubt love to host another soon.
A spokesman for Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick reiterated that his office is committed to "making sure that every Texan is welcomed" at sporting events. "Despite persistent misinformation in the media, under Senate Bill 6, all Texas teams will be able to set their own policies at the stadiums and arenas where they play and hold their events," Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said (via CBS).
Abbott made clear that the NFL's feelings are not a consideration.
"We don't care what the NFL thinks, and certainly what their political policies are, because they are not a political arm of the state of Texas or the United States of America," Abbott told Beck.
In a tweet and Facebook post, Abbott reminded the league that "it ended up with ⅛the⅜ NFL handing the Super Bowl trophy to ⅛Tom⅜ Brady" after Commissioner Roger Goodell slapped a four-game suspension on the New England Patriots quarterback last year.
The tweet has drawn nearly 2,000 likes and has been retweeted more than 1,000 times. On Facebook, one reader responded that "women deserve to feel safe when going into restrooms, showers and locker rooms." Another wrote: ""Tell the NFL and ANY other sports organization that Texas will NOT be intimidated by their threats - they don't like the laws in Texas, don't come - we don't care."
On Twitter, one user urged Abbott to just drop the issue. "We don't wish to be the laughingstock of the world with this BS. We are not NC. This is TEXAS!"
That user was referring to North Carolina, which has paid a price for a bathroom bill that has cost it a number of entertainment and sports events, including this year's NBA All-Star Weekend that was moved to New Orleans.