The NFL is currently doing its very best to appear like a socially progressive franchise, at least when it comes to welcoming LGBTQ players into the league. But a mixed response from league officials to Michael Sam's decision to come out in advance of the May draft, a damning report on a culture of racist and homophobic harassment inside and outside of the Miami Dolphins' locker room, and persistent allegations of similar harassment across the franchise paints a much more complicated picture of league culture as it currently stands.
Any efforts to shift NFL culture -- or at least improve its public reputation -- may be further complicated by the fact that the 2015 Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in Arizona, which is currently on the precipice of legalizing anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the state.
Perhaps realizing this, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee released a statement late Monday denouncing the state's so-called religious liberty bill:
We share the NFL's core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination. In addition, a key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona. On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation. Instead, we look forward to continuing to promote the NFL's values while focusing on the economic momentum apparent in Arizona and capturing the positive worldwide attention associated with hosting Super Bowl XLIX.
Officials in other states are aware of the mess Arizona will find itself in if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the measure, and are pushing the NFL to consider taking the Super Bowl elsewhere if the bill becomes law.
“If they pass this law and if [Brewer] signs it, it would seem to me that the NFL may be looking, or should be looking, to move the Super Bowl out of that state,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said on MSNBC on Monday. “Because, you know, there’s so many places around the country that are welcoming to everybody.”
“I'm going to go home, and when I receive the bill, I'm going to read it and I'm going to be briefed on it. We have been following it. And I will make my decision in the near future,” Brewer told CNN on Monday. “I can assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona,” Brewer said.