Late Friday afternoon, Georgia was struck by a hailstorm of opposition to HB 757, the License to Discriminate bill that the General Assembly advanced to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk last week. Athletes and sports organization, from major local teams on up to the NFL, are speaking out against the anti-LGBT measure in the name of good sportsmanship and smart business.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank publicly opposed the bill, saying its tone of exclusion and divisiveness goes against his values as a person and a businessman. He is also concerned about negative effects on his employees:
“One of my bedrock values is ‘Include Everyone’ and it’s a principle we embrace and strive to live each and every day with my family and our associates, a vast majority of which live and work in Georgia. I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.”
The Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves reiterated those sentiments, with the Hawks specifically highlighting Georgia’s long history of being a leader in promoting civil rights, a legacy that Governor Deal should commit to upholding:
“For generations, Atlanta has stood at the forefront of civil rights and its diversity is what has made this city a cultural leader in the Southeast. The Hawks strongly believe in the values of inclusion, diversity and equal rights, core principles by which we operate our business and are essential elements in making Atlanta a leading global city.”
The Braves were doubly adamant in their condemnation of HB 757, noting that an atmosphere of inclusiveness is essential to making Georgia a welcoming business environment. They acknowledged Georgia Prospers, a coalition of 480+ business that are advocating against the bill, for their commitment to inclusiveness and diversity in Georgia’s business community:
“The Atlanta Braves organization believes that House Bill 757 is detrimental to our community and bad for Georgia. Our organization believes in an environment that is inclusive of all people. In addition to allowing discrimination against citizens of this state, the bill will have a profoundly negative impact on our organization. As a Georgia business and employer, we proudly support Georgia Prospers in its goal to ensure that the state’s workplaces and communities are diverse and welcoming for all people, no matter one’s race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We are proud to represent Georgia and are opposed to any law that endorses discrimination against anyone.”
The NFL has also come out against HB 757. The organization has been known to relocate tournaments to make a statement about civil rights—and Georgia could be next to get the boot according to a statement denouncing Georgia’s anti-LGBT License to Discriminate bill:
“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 host sites.”
Georgia is shortlisted for 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls. Falcons owner Blank has already committed $15 million to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium project, which was commissioned expressly to host upcoming Super Bowls and is slated to open next year. If Governor Deal signs discriminatory HB 757 into law and the NFL dumps Georgia, it could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and tournament revenue.
The sports community’s vocal reaction to HB 757 comes as businesses in all industries are mounting pressure on Governor Deal to veto the bill. Most recently, Fortune 500 giant Home Depot and tech companies Mailchimp and Apple have spoken out demanding a swift veto to curb fallout from passage of what is now viewed nationally as a license to discriminate. Home Depot is based in metro Atlanta and employs more than a quarter million people. Companies like Apple, Mailchimp, and Salesforce—which has threatened to move business out of the state if SB 757 becomes law—drive Georgia’s economic future and are critical to our state’s innovative economy.
Governor Deal has previously said he would veto any legislation that allows discrimination on the basis of broad religious exemptions. He has until May 3 to make his decision. As the chorus of opposition—from corporate America to major athletic groups—grows, Governor Deal should strongly consider the economic ramifications of not honoring that promise.SHARE THIS STORY