They say “Don’t mess with Texas” for a reason.
And if the National Football League wants to avoid getting blindsided, it might want to think twice about what that advice means.
Just a week after Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, the League suggested that if the Lone Star State legislature passes a proposed bill requiring people to use the bathroom, locker room or shower rooms and changing room assigned to their biological gender, Texas may forfeit high-profile sports events in the future. Why? Because gay rights groups consider the law tantamount to legalized discrimination against trans-gender people.
The NFL’s threat is nearly identical to one issued by the National Basketball Association and the NCAA, the governing body for collegiate sports, against North Carolina, which has already enacted a similar law.
Earlier this week, Bellwether looked at the nasty standoff between North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and opponents of the law. The NBA moved this year’s All-Star game, slated for Charlotte, to New Orleans, as punishment for North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill. And the NCAA has threatened to shut the Tar Heel state out of future sports events unless the law, officially known as HR2, is repealed.
North Carolina isn’t backing down, and Texas probably won’t, either, when its bill comes up for a vote next month. "The NBA and the NFL have lost their minds, as well as their moral compass, " says Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. "They are shaking in their sneakers because they're so afraid of political correctness."
“The far left is out of touch on this issue,” says Texas Republican State Senator Lois Kohlkorst, the bill’s chief sponsor. “What I find frustrating is that most people who say they oppose this bill haven’t even read it.”
A former college athlete, Kohlkorst says that the proposal, formally called SB6 but shorthanded as the bathroom bill, covers more than restrooms. For example, if SB6 fails to become law, a player on the men’s basketball team who self-identifies as female can choose the girls’ locker room to suit up and shower in. She warns, “The thought of 15- and 16 –year-old boys and girls showering together at school is something we should think about.”
Women’s groups are now voicing alarm. “We’re hearing from women, especially rape victims, who are offended and traumatized by the thought of a man being in these most intimate places with them,” Kolkhorst says. “This cuts through party lines and goes to our shared system of values.”
She cites internal polling showing SB6 is favored by every ethnic group in Texas but one: white liberal Democrats.
Certainly, trans-gender people – by which I mean those who have undergone medical alteration to make them what they choose to be – should not endure discrimination. But what about those who have not taken such steps? How should they prove they are the gender they say they are? An anatomy exam? Wouldn’t that be the most humiliating test of all?
The NBA and the NCAA declined to talk last week when I called about the North Carolina law. The NFL has issued a statement saying it is inclusive and opposed to discrimination of any kind, but won’t comment further.
Yet none of these sports associations have opened their players’ locker rooms to the opposite gender. Nor have they taken steps to ensure that spectators can enter any bathroom in the stadiums where their games are played.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott thinks the NFL is sticking its faceguard where it doesn’t belong. “The NFL has its own problems,” Abbott told Bill Hemmer on Fox News Channel. “The NFL coddled players who refused to stand for the National Anthem. The NFL has its own problems with regards to violence against women. The last thing the NFL needs to do is tell states how to operate.”
NFL referees are pretty good at recognizing offside, when one team wanders into an opponent’s space. Perhaps a quick glance in the mirror would help end this latest, unnecessary scrimmage, and help everyone make the right call.
John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Vatican correspondent and Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books, including "Pope John Paul II : Biography."