NFL’s Bathroom Politics


Super Bowl LI was exciting, and for the city of Houston, it was a profitable finish to the 2016-17 season. But the NFL is threatening to not hold any future Super Bowls in the state of Texas again. Why are they upset? Because the Texas senate is proposing a bill restricting bathroom access to transgender people.

The bill, which requires people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate, has caught the attention of the NFL, who is threatening to pull millions of dollars of profits out of the state if they don’t conform to the NFL’s standards. Paul Weber of the Associated Press reports that when he asked the NFL about the bill, a league spokesman said: “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.”[1]

Notice the words of the NFL’s spokesperson. Any state making a proposal that is “inconsistent with our values” may result in action taken against it. So the NFL is waving millions of dollars in the faces of every state in the nation that wants to host an event, forcing them to agree with the NFL’s values or they will take the money away. Does anyone think this is okay?

The NFL can claim it has a vested interest because they don’t want transgender people to be forced into NFL bathrooms that they do not feel comfortable with. But the Texas senate bill provides for all Texas teams to set their own policies at their stadiums. In other words, the bill does not affect the NFL in any way. So why is the NFL upset about this? This is not a case of the NFL being concerned for its customers. It is political activism, and it is a disturbing trend.

The reason why this is disturbing has nothing to do with whether the laws are discriminatory or not. The disturbing thing about this is that the NFL thinks that because of the amount of money they control and their exclusive freedom to determine where their Super Bowls will be held, they can engage in politics and sway lawmakers into bowing to their will. Why does the NFL think they have the right to tell state governments what laws they can and cannot pass?

This is not the first time the NFL has chimed in on a political measure such as this. In 2015 they intimidated the state of Georgia into backing down on a religious liberty law the NFL claimed was discriminatory. It would be foolish to think this kind of bullying will stop with Texas, just as it would be foolish to think it will stop with bathroom bills.

I do not write this to support this or any bathroom bill. I support inclusiveness and the equal rights of all people. But this issue transcends transgender rights. It is about the rights of all American citizens, and the ironic thing is, in their attempt to protect the rights of an exceedingly small group of people, the NFL is actually threatening the rights of potentially every American. You see, if the NFL finds that it can succeed with its bullying tactics, it will continue to do so whenever it sees fit. The American people cannot be so naïve as to think this will end with transgender rights. Today it is a bathroom bill, but tomorrow it might be the Republican Party. After all, aren’t they behind all these discriminatory laws? Next thing you know, states that host the National Republican Convention might be blacklisted by the NFL. Where will it stop?

That is why the state of Texas must not give in to the demands of the NFL, who is holding their right to host a Super Bowl hostage until the prescribed ransom is paid. Neither Texas, nor any other state is obligated to honor the specific values of any individual organization, especially one that is not even based in their state. Their sworn duty is to uphold the values of the people of their state, and the NFL is interfering with the execution of that duty. For that reason, the NFL should be rebuked and told to stand down.

Every American has the right to hold to the values of their choice, and to vote in accordance with those values without any fear of punishment. And America’s lawmakers should be able to do their job without fear of outsiders shouting over the voices of the state’s voters. Those who have a vested interest have a right to voice their opinion, but in the end they must submit to due process and allow the lawmakers to do their job. Bullying them and intimidating them is not an option. Does the NFL even know if the majority of Texas businesses support the bill? Probably, they don’t, and that is because they do not care. They just want their will to be pushed forward regardless of the will of the people. And if for no other reason than that, we should all rebuke the NFL for its bullying measures.

[1] Paul J. Weber, “NFL More Forceful on Texas ‘Bathroom Bill’ after Super Bowl,” AP article on MSN Sports,

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/nfl-more-forceful-on-texas-bathroom-bill-after-super-bowl/ar-AAmOx6R?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=U142DHP.

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