The NFL has decided to mess with Texas. The league is threatening to prevent future Superbowl events from being held in the state if the legislature passes SB6 this session. SB6 sets forth a standard bathroom policy for state and local government facilities, including public schools. Obviously there is wide debate on the matter and a variety of opinions can be found across the United States, but Texans are fairly decided. Only 31% believe that gender identity should be the deciding criteria for what restroom a person uses.
Last May, in response to Fort Worth’s controversial and later overturned guidelines on transgender bathrooms, President Obama issued an edict which forced all public schools to let transgender students use whatever bathroom or locker room they felt was consistent with their current gender identity. This order was wildly controversial in Texas and was later blocked by a federal judge. SB6, if passed, would clarify state law on the matter and otherwise reverse this edict.
The NFL, however, believes that they have sufficient clout in our football-crazed state to veto state law by bullying and otherwise threatening Texans. On February 10, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said “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.” Clearly, the NFL believes that the land of “friday night lights” cherishes football more than their hard-won right to republican rule.
Governor Greg Abbott took first to twitter, and then to the airwaves, in assailing the NFL’s belligerent attitude. “Most recently, for some low-level NFL advisor to come out and say that they are going to micromanage and dictate to the state of Texas what types of policies we are going to pass in our state, that is unacceptable. We don’t care what the NFL thinks or certainly what their political policies are because they are not a political arm of the state of Texas or the United States of America. They need to learn their place in the United States, which is to govern football. Not politics.”
As a private entity, the NFL ultimately has the right to decide what city will host the Superbowl and if they want to penalize Texas; that is their right. Although SB6 only affect government owned facilities and the NFL can obviously change the bathroom configuration in privately owned football stadiums, if the NFL decides to put their politics above football, ultimately there is likely little that the state government can do about it.
Texas is a sovereign entity and a republic that, per the Tenth Amendment, has the right to enact laws that do not conflict with the few and enumerated powers of the Federal Government. The Federal Government obviously has no power to dictate bathroom policies of state government owned buildings, so Texas law on the matter is supreme.
The most troubling matter is the breakdown of civilized and organized society into feuding factions which have nothing in common. When the Bill of Rights was proposed in Congress, there was a great debate as to whether we should even bother to have a bill of rights since it was obvious to all that the proposed amendments already existed as universal rights. In other words, the right to free speech or the sovereignty of the states to rule themselves were widely recognized as core American values. You would not find shop-owners systemically firing employees for having different political or religious beliefs. You would not, in the late eighteenth century, expect to find businesses refusing to serve people who voted for a different political candidate. In other words, there was wide agreement on the values codified in the bill of rights; not just in the public sphere, but in the personal sphere as well.
What we are seeing in this scenario is the NFL, an organization that has an unbelievable amount of power over our living rooms, telling Texans that they are in charge. If we’re honest, the NFL exists and prospers because we put such an incredible emphasis on the value of sports. After all, we are willing to evict retirees from their homes to build a preposterously expensive stadium in Arlington on the backs of taxpayers who are forced to subsidize it like an essential piece of infrastructure such as a road or bridge. The NFL is powerful because we have, as a society, decided that this is crucial to our way of life.
If the NFL follows through on their threats (which we have every reason to believe since the NBA did in North Carolina), then Texans will be faced with a choice. Do Texans have the right to rule themselves? If Texas capitulates over an issue which isn’t even very controversial among Texas voters, what will they do when the NFL threatens to throw the Cowboys out of the league when an independence referendum is passed?
Texans need to decide what they value most: independence or football?