February 13, 2017
If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks "football unites us," then why is his league taking political sides? Good question, one NFL is having a tough time answering. With league ratings in the basement after the Colin Kaepernick controversy, you'd think Goodell and company would have learned their lesson about wading into the culture wars. Not so, scream today's headlines. Instead of distancing themselves from the kinds of debates that divide fans, the NFL is digging in its cleats on a losing issue: gender-free bathrooms.
Days after hosting a hugely successful Houston Super Bowl -- both from a PR and revenue standpoint -- the league is starting the off-season with empty threats over the Texas Privacy Act. "If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law [in Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events," warned NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
Of course, the irony is that the very city where the championship game was just held -- Houston -- overwhelmingly rejected the very legislation the NFL says it supports. And did the league pitch a fit then? No. All it did was reaffirm its commitment to "inclusivity," which the Texas Privacy Act supports. Believe it or not, if Goodell issued a blanket policy that every NFL stadium had to make its bathrooms gender-free, the Lone Star bill would let him! "Despite persistent misinformation in the media, under Senate Bill 6, all Texas teams will be able to set their own policies at the stadiums and arenas where they play and hold their events. There is no conflict with the NFL's statement today and Senate Bill 6."
But here's the league's dirty little secret. This isn't about what happens at their own stadiums. If it were, the league would have already relabeled its facilities. This is about the NFL being used by LGBT activists to leverage their power against the people and their elected leaders. And at this point -- eight days after a Super Bowl in the very state it's criticizing -- the NFL's after-the-fact warnings are almost comical.
If Goodell hoped to scare Texas leaders, he'll have to try harder. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), who cares more about protecting his citizens than the NFL's misguided politics, jabbed the league on Twitter, saying "NFL decision makers also benched Tom Brady last season. It ended with NFL handing the Super Bowl trophy to Brady." Much like ESPN, which saw viewership slump after a few too many liberal rants, the NFL is on precarious ground. "The steady decline in NFL television ratings has been the biggest story of the football season, and arguably the biggest sports-business story of 2016," Yahoo! Finance wrote. Across every demographic, the league's defense of Colin Kaepernick led to a protest from which the league might not recover. Surely, the league knows better than to involve the NFL in an equally combustible debate over bathrooms. Or does it?
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.