A mess was avoided Wednesday.
Not a mess that could have been washed away during the days-long news cycle, but one that would’ve had long-lasting implications. If Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had failed to veto Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed Arizonans the ability to cite religious beliefs as a reason to deny services to anybody, the ensuing fallout could’ve irreparably fractured the NFL’s relationship with the state.
Had the bill become law, the NFL likely would’ve relocated Super Bowl XLIX, whether to Tampa Bay, as Sports Illustrated reported earlier Wednesday, or some other location. The rumored January Pro Bowl in Arizona? Also off. Players and teams likely would’ve protested, at least behind closed doors, about having to play the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.
I have no doubt the NFL and Arizona would’ve had a messy breakup.
The bill, after all, wasn’t just anti-gay. It was a document of discrimination. How could the NFL have allowed for Michael Sam to be denied service at a restaurant or a store not only because he’s gay, but perhaps because he’s black? What about every other black player in the league? Or those players whose faith might not have been in line with Arizona’s vendors?
Maybe Arizona has matured from the late 1980s and early 1990s when it honored, then didn’t honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Arizonans voted in 1990 to not observe MLK Day and, later that year, the NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII to Pasadena, Calif. Only after the state voted to observe the holiday in 1993 did Arizona receive Super Bowl XXX.
But if Arizona has grown, how did this bill reach Brewer’s desk?
Arizona is a tourist state, especially for those from the snowed-under northern states. Arizona Super Bowl host committee CEO Jay Parry said most of the conversations she had in New York before this month’s Super Bowl included the draw of the warm weather in the desert. It would’ve been a shame for the conversation to turn to this discriminatory bill driving the Super Bowl to another warm-weather state.
And if you think sports weren’t on the governor’s mind while she was making her decision, read her statement again.
“As with every proposal that reaches my desk, I gave Senate Bill 1062 careful evaluation and deliberate consideration,” Brewer said. “I call them like I see them, despite the cheers or boos from the crowd.”
Just like any game plan, nothing’s perfect. The fact that S.B. 1062 passed the state legislature is the equivalent of a bad game. But Brewer’s veto was a win -- even if it’s an ugly win. It happens a lot. The Cardinals had a few games like that last year.
As for keeping the Super Bowl -- which had an estimated $500 million economic impact on the Arizona economy when it was held here in 2008 -- and the NFL in the state, many fans would say that outcome is priceless.