Texas’s Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ Might Scare Off The NFL

Sometimes, bigotry has consequences

Getty Images
Jun 12, 2017 at 12:47 PM ET

During the 2017 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and 15 other representatives of potential host cities trekked down to Philadelphia to take in the proceedings.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Jones was enraptured, quoted as being “envious” of the three-day gala, and pining for the chance to bring the draft to his billion-dollar megaplex in Arlington. ESPN’s Adam Schefter previously reported that Dallas is “a really strong contender,” but there’s one sticking point: Texas’s ongoing efforts to enact its own North Carolina-style anti-trans “bathroom bill” could scuttle Dallas’s bid, per unnamed sources.

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who previously told the NFL to “get the heck out of politics” when the league offered light criticism of his anti-trans policies, called for a special session of the Texas Legislature to muscle through an “ambitious” 19-item agenda.

Included on the docket is House Bill 2899, an expanded and even more discriminatory bit of legislation than the state’s previous efforts, as well as an amendment added to Senate Bill 2078, which would have required all students to use restrooms and other gender-segregated facilities that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate or be provided with a multi-use facility. (After being passed by the House, the more Conservative-leaning Senate rejected the proposed amendment. According to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has been a driving force behind various iterations of the bill, SB 2078 didn’t “appear to do much.”)

HB 2899, however, while not specifically mentioning trans people, gender, or biological sex, would bar any and all Texas municipalities from enacting future legislation “to protect a class of persons from discrimination” when it comes to bathrooms or changing facilities, including in schools, and overrides any and all anti-discriminatory laws currently on the books that go beyond the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Regardless, Governor Abbott made it clear what he wants. “We need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools,” he said, falling back on the same tired and wrong fallacy that trans people are a threat to children. In reality, it’s trans people that have been the victims of violence in bathrooms.

“The result of this proposal would be an unprecedented form of exclusion from protections,” Chuck Smith, the executive director of Equality Texas, an LGBT advocacy group told the Dallas Morning News. “It would take away existing protections, it would prohibit protections from being put in place in the future, and third, it would specifically allow discrimination to be enacted.”

Major corporations have weighed in, calling the legislation discriminatory and hinting that the bill will result in economic losses for the state, as was the case in North Carolina. And the Texas Association of Business put forth a study when Senate Bill 6 – another version of the bathroom bill which was held up by the legislature – was still being considered, which argued that SB 6 would lop $8.5 billion off Texas’s ledger and cost 185,000 jobs, though PolitiFact determined that those numbers are seriously inflated.

At the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, the NFL was asked about SB 6 and the response was clear.

“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,” NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

The Dallas Morning News did not provide much in the way of information as to who exactly its sources are, or how and why they have any special insight into the NFL’s thinking, and a decision won’t be made until the late summer or early fall. But HB 2899, like the North Carolina “compromise” bill that allowed the NCAA and the NBA to come crawling back to the state, covers public facilities like schools and government-run buildings, not privately-owned venues like AT&T Stadium.

Meaning Jerry Jones and the NFL could promise to buck this state-sponsored, fear-based bigotry shoud Dallas top the other 22 reported candidates by providing non-gender specific restrooms, and hypocritically shrug off the fact that Texas is still harming LGBT citizens, while still touting their commitment to “inclusivenss.”

McCarthy did not respond to an emailed request for comment regarding HB 2899 prior to publication. The special session of the Texas Legislature will convene on July 18.