Today’s Social Defender: The NFL

Today’s Social Defender: The NFL

Last week Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed legislation that would have granted business owners the right to refuse service to those customers whom they felt violated their personal religious freedoms. In particular, this legislation was seen as a slap against the gay community.

Short of forcing everyone to carry a sexuality preference card, I have no idea how they planned to enforce it. Simply put, this was another feeble attempt by reactionaries – under the guise of protecting “religious freedoms” – to fight back against the social changes happening everywhere else.

But who’s to thank for making this veto a reality? Although the local corporations deserve some credit, I give top honours to the National Football League.

In this instance, the merest possibility that the NFL could reconsider Arizona hosting the next Super Bowl was enough for the Governor to pull the plug. And not only that, it served to highlight the hypocrisy of how those so ardent in their “morally-righteous principles” are easily stymied by the potential loss of the almighty dollar.

Sigh…there is an innate satisfaction in watching right-wing reactionaries being slapped down by the very organizations they profess to represent. Although, how anyone could think you can be both pro-business and anti-customer is baffling; frankly, if you’re not interested in serving customers, then you have no business being in business.

Interestingly, the NFL is no stranger to facing off with Arizona’s political decisions. In 1993, the Super Bowl was moved out of Arizona following a failed attempt to create a paid holiday in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. If the NFL took such an action before, then clearly this most recent event was not subject to just some idle threat.

With that in mind, American football has significantly more power than I originally thought. It has the power to effect broad social changes throughout the United States.

Think about it. A state that chooses to pass legislation which could best be described as on-the-wrong-side-of-history could be subject to any number of NFL sanctions.

Although it would likely be near impossible to take away a state’s franchise, what would stop the league from taking away a team’s draft picks? The NFL could refuse to consider athletes in attendance at colleges within those states, making those colleges undesirable for prospective student-athletes; they could refuse to televise games; and those states with regressive legislation wouldn’t be considered for hosting the Super Bowl…the possibilities are endless.

Although I doubt the NFL wants to offensively wade too deeply into the political foray, the organization is theoretically well-positioned to become the defender of the socially progressive; or – in the very least – defender of the status quo against the socially regressive.

Erin Drushel

One comment

  1. treebeard says:

    I’d like to think all of this was of the purest social idealist motivation, but I can’t help wondering if this action, and that in 1993, would have happened in an NFL in which the racial ratio that currently exists were reversed.

    I have not followed the issue closely enough to have any but the most superficial information, but I do seem to recall hearing that a big segment of corporate America, particularly the information technology giants, also offered the errant legislators some clear words of caution.

    Meanwhile I am waiting to hear the denouement of the Anglo boycott of a Tim Hortons in Laval, where the staff refused to serve customers in any language but French.

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