Historically, the state of Georgia has been known for being a “Bible Belt” state, which informally refers to the southeastern region of the United States known for its conservative ways closely linked to Christianity. Well, this week a critical decision was made that disgruntled many religious groups: Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the Religious Freedom Bill.
In a nutshell, the proposed Religious Freedom Bill would have allowed businesses and people to deny services to homosexuals if they felt it violated their religious beliefs. However, if passed, this bill would’ve been a form of legalized discrimination.
I’m usually not one to comment on political news, but there is a connection here between politics and sports which has prompted me to respond from that perspective.
Sports plays a vital role in the financial prosperity of a geographical region. Currently, the city of Atlanta itself is home to five professional sports teams, one of which—soccer—will begin play in 2017. These teams generate a significant amount of revenue for the city and state because many fans and spectators spend money for travel, hotel accommodations, food, and more, when supporting their team(s).
Take the Atlanta Falcons for example. The team is currently a strong contender to host the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl. However, after the league’s office caught wind of Georgia’s position on the Religious Freedom Bill, it issued a strongly worded statement cautioning the governor to act otherwise because access to the $500 million event was at stake. Published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the league stated, “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 sites.”
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In 2014, Arizona’s governor vetoed a similar bill when the NFL threatened to relocate the Super Bowl elsewhere if the bill was approved then, too. Unsurprisingly, the governor wisely acted accordingly.
Additionally, sports are (or at least should be) about unity, diversity and inclusion. From the office administration, to the coaching staff, to the players, it is important to diversify one’s organization to be successful, which means being open to all races, backgrounds, and beliefs. Any form of discrimination is grounds for lawsuits.
With all of that said, it was crucial that this bill be vetoed in order to maintain relations with sport organizations. Politics are about money, and sports are about money, too. And in today’s world, they need each other to advance because sport entities are a powerful resource for economic development.
And quite frankly, my personal views as a Christian and Georgia native still agree that this bill needed to be vetoed. I understand that we all may have differing beliefs, but I am not one for discrimination. I believe we are all God’s children, that I am not empowered to judge, and that we should all be able to live, and let live.
Whether you agree with Governor Deal’s decision or not is your choice. Whether you agree with me or not is also your choice. Just know, the bottom line in this decision was money.
For more of Jordan’s take, check out her blog The Watter Girl.