The NFL and NCAA sent powerful warning shots to Gov. Nathan Deal: Georgia's new anti-gay bill could threaten Atlanta's Super Bowl bid and NCAA championships.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Mayor Kasim Reed want to land a Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020 in the team's new stadium, which opens next year. Atlanta is among four finalists. But the NFL said a bill like House Bill 757 – which lawmakers passed on Wednesday – could jeopardize those efforts.
The statement from league spokesman Brian McCarthy reads, “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. 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.”
Blank responded with his own statement, criticizing the legislation and reiterating his belief that "a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical."
The NCAA also warned that cities that host its events are expected to be welcoming to all. Via the Kansas City Star:
“Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values,” the organization said Thursday evening in a statement to The Star. “It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events.”
The NCAA warning came as Missouri lawmakers consider a "religious freedom" amendment to the state's constitution that would allow some businesses to discriminate against LGBT couples. Kansas City hosts the men’s NCAA Midwest Regional basketball semifinals and final in March 2017.
Atlanta hosts the men’s NCAA South Regional in 2018 and the Final Four in 2020.
On Thursday, Reed condemned the legislation and expressed concern that it could impact the city's bid to land high-profile sports events. On Friday, Deal said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the legislation. He has until May 3 to take action on it.