All eyes are on Arizona, including the watchful gaze of the National Football League and officials busy organizing the state’s 2015 Super Bowl hosting efforts, as Gov. Jan Brewer decides whether to sign a controversial “religious freedom” bill.
The Arizona Cardinals and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee on Monday joined a growing wave of business groups urging the governor to veto SB1062, which opponents say will legalize discrimination in Arizona, leaving the LGBT community particularly vulnerable.
And the NFL issued a statement Monday afternoon acknowledging it was monitoring the situation.
“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 a statement. “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 passage of SB1062 comes at a time when the NFL is expecting its first openly gay player to be drafted in May. Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who recently announced he was gay, competed in the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis on Monday.
The host committee followed with its own statement supporting the NFL’s policies, and urged Brewer to quash the bill for the sake of the state’s economy.
“We share the NFL’s core values, which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination,” the committee said in statement.
Signing SB1062 into law would run counter to the committee’s goals of promoting Arizona’s economic vitality, the committee stated, and would “deal a significant blow to the state’s economic growth potential.”
“We do not support this legislation. Instead, we look forward to continuing to promote the NFL’s values while focusing on the economic momentum apparent in Arizona and capturing the positive worldwide attention associated with hosting Super Bowl XLIX,” the committee stated.
In House and Senate votes on the bill last week, Democratic lawmakers warned that passing SB1062 could jeopardize Arizona’s hosting duties for the Super Bowl in 2015, arguing that the NFL may consider finding a new city to host next year’s signature NFL game.
It wouldn’t be the first time an action by Arizona lawmakers made the NFL wary of sending the Super Bowl to the desert.
When former Gov. Evan Mecham abolished Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an Arizona holiday in 1987, the NFL was in the midst of deciding what city should host Super Bowl XXVII in 1993.
Though the NFL initially awarded the game to Arizona, the controversy over the MLK Day ban and the voters’ defeat of ballot initiatives to reinstate the holiday spurred the league to rescind Arizona’s host status. The Super Bowl was shipped off to Pasadena, Calif.
Cardinals officials stated late Monday afternoon that they “do not support anything that has the potential to divide, exclude and discriminate. As a prominent and highly-visible member of this community, we strive to bring positive attention to the state. We are concerned with anything that creates a negative perception of Arizona and those of us who are fortunate enough to call it home.”