In early January 2017, Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst unveiled Senate Bill 6, which, if passed, would prohibit the enforcement of local nondiscrimination ordinances allowing transgender people in Texas to use the bathroom of their choice and would instead require all those in Texas to use the bathroom that matches their “biological sex” in government buildings and public schools. In response, the NBA and NFL warned the Lone Start State that passing the proposed transgender “bathroom bill” would be met with consequences.
This is not the first time the two most popular American sports leagues have actively opposed certain proposed pieces of legislation. In fact, the NBA moved the location of this year’s All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana in response to North Carolina’s adoption of a “bathroom bill” similar to the one now being debated in Texas.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Mike Bass, spokesman for the NBA, said one of the criteria used in selecting host locations for NBA events is identifying environments in which all people are treated “fairly and equally.” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a similar statement in the Dallas Morning News, stating “[w]e 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. If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
Although it remains to be seen whether the responses of the NFL and NBA will directly influence the adoption of the legislation, some in Texas are already angered by the Leagues’ positions. The Dallas Morning News noted that the strong responses from the NFL and NBA elicited ire from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who suggested he would pass a bill requiring all NFL players to stand for the National Anthem if the NFL chose to boycott Texas.
Kendall Howell is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).