The NFL released a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on a pending Georgia bill enabling discrimination toward gay people that suggests the law could impact the Falcons potentially hosting the Super Bowl.
The Falcons’ new stadium is set to open in 2017, and the team hopes to host the championship game in the near future. Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill recently passed through state legislature, and governor Nathan Deal is currently weighing its ratification, with review due in April.
The bill, in short, provides for lawful discrimination should a given organization choose to deny“social, educational or charitable services that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” Discussion of the bill by officials has clarified that it is a direct response to to approval of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court.
“When the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage, dynamics changed,” said Georgia state senator Greg Kirk (R) said of the bill, according to the New York Times. “There was a need for a law, for this law, and it took Georgia to lead the way of the country to put this law together.”
The NFL has warned the Falcons and the state of Georgia of potential business consequences if the bill is passed.
“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote 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.”
Falcons owner Arthur Blank made a statement to the Journal-Constitution opposing the bill later Friday.
“One of my bedrock values is ‘Include Everyone’ and it’s a principle we embrace and strive to live each and every day with my family and our associates, a vast majority of which live and work in Georgia,” Blank wrote. “I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.”
The Falcons were at the center of a recent controversy after one of their coaches asked a prospective player at the combine whether he liked men.
The Atlanta Braves, Hawks and the NCAA made similar statements to the Journal-Constitution, which can be read here.