The NFL & Texas' Bathroom Bill: The effect on NFL Clubs, in Texas & Future Sporting Events

Image source: Digital Trends

In January 2017, Texan Republicans revealed a proposed bill (Senate Bill 6), known as 'The Bathroom Bill' with the aim to regulate bathroom use and prevent transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender which they identify.  The bill overturns existing legislation that extends protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It means that a transgender person will be unable to use the bathroom of the sex in which they identify unless they have successfully changed their birth certificate.

The NFL Response


An NFL spokesman advised on Friday, that such discriminatory legislation could be taken into account in any decision-making on where the league hosts major-events, in the future. Texas has just recently hosted this year's Super Bowl but it may be their last if the proposed plans go ahead, according to the NFL.

The NFL prohibits discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard, which is enshrined in the league's policies. As such, the proposals from the State of Texas is indirect contrast to NFL values.

Here's what the NFL had to say on the matter:

"If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law (in Texas), that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events...The NFL embraces inclusiveness. We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events, and NFL policies prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard."

This is not the first time that the NFL has acted in relation to political developments in the United States. In 1990, it was announced by the league that Arizona had won a bid to host the Super Bowl in 1993. Sometime thereafter, the state refused to recognise Martin Luther King Jr. day as an official holiday. The failure to recognise the holiday resulted in the NFL moving the 1993 Super Bowl to Pasadena, in California, instead. Arizona changed their tune in 1992 and officially recognised the day as an official holiday  - they have hosted several Super Bowls since.

North Carolina introduced a similar measure to the bathroom bill in 2016 (known as House Bill 2) which removed anti-discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The implementation of that legislation resulted in several sports organisations, including the NBA, moving sporting events away from the State.

How will the Bathroom Bill affect NFL clubs & events in Texas?

The bill applies to government buildings, public schools and public universities only. NFL teams that  are based in Texas and own their venues, will be able to set their own bathroom policies in the stadiums or arenas, in which they play.

Further, in the event that a stadium or arena is publicly owned but leased by a private organisation such as a sports league or club, section 769.103 will apply. This section provides an exemption for the leasing organisation, meaning that they can set their own policies and will not be required to adopt the bathroom bill policy. This section would apply to the NRG Stadium in Houston where the Super Bowl was held last week. Although not related to the NFL, the bill will, however, apply to most college stadiums in the state. 



It is not surprising that the NFL has voiced concerns over the proposal, despite it not affecting on-pitch activity, given their previous stance in similar political situations. North Carolina has suffered, in a sporting context, since the implementation of similar measures last year, seeing the NCAA removing seven scheduled championship events from the state as well as the NBA moving its All-Star Game, due to the legislation. Since 2004, Texas has held more combined Super Bowls, NBA All-Star Games and NCAA Final Fours than any other state in the USA but the proposed legislation may see the State put on the back-burner for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether NFL events are directly affected or not.

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