NFL Was Preparing To Move Super Bowl If Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill Passed

It is a moot point now that Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial SB 1062, but the NFL had already begun taking steps to secure a different location for next year's Super Bowl. It would have gone, in all likelihood, to Tampa.

The NFL never said outright it would take Super Bowl XLIX away from Arizona if the bill, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay, lesbian, and transgendered customers by citing religious beliefs, was signed into law. But Sports Illustrated's Don Banks reports that the league was already reviewing Tampa's second-place bid for the game, and was poised to begin an accelerated relocation process with just 11 months to go.

Raymond James Stadium, which last hosted a Super Bowl in 2009 and barely lost out to University of Phoenix Stadium in a runoff vote in 2011, was the overwhelming favorite to get the game on short notice. But a league source told Banks that the NFL wasn't waiting to see the fate of the bill to get things moving.

"No one wants to do this, but if the league's hand is forced, it would have to begin preparing for that process,'' the source close to the situation said. "If this doesn't get vetoed, it has to know, what has to be done next? That discussion has begun.

"Two weeks ago no one would have been discussing who finished second in the 2014 Super Bowl bid process. So that's what changed. The NFL has to know the possibility, however remote, that it would have to move the game and begin preparations to do that. It would be imprudent not to begin that process.''


The league had relocated a Super Bowl once before, though on three years' notice: The 1993 game was taken away from Arizona after residents voted not to recognize MLK Day. With the veto of SB 1062, that will remain the only one for now.

Anti-Gay Bill Could Cost Arizona The Super Bowl

A bill passed by both the Arizona House and Senate that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers will either become law, or be vetoed by the governor, by Friday. The NFL, which plans to hold the 2015 Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, is watching very closely.

SB 1062, an amendment to the Orwellianly named Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would expand that law proscribing the "substantially burden[ing]" of individuals' exercise of religion. Under the amendment, the same protections would be extended to private businesses, and allow religious freedom as a defense even in lawsuits not involving the government. Critics have pointed to the most likely (and intended) outcome of the law being businesses' right to refuse service to gay and transgendered people based on their religious beliefs, but it would also provide protection to a company wishing to exclude, say, women, Muslims, or even, yes, Christians.

So, it's pretty fucked up. The NFL appears to think so too. In response to questions of whether it would move Super Bowl XLIX if the bill becomes law, the league released this statement:

"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time."

The Super Bowl has been taken away from a host just once in its 49-year history‚ÄĒthe 1993 game was moved from Arizona after residents voted against recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


National and local businesses have been petitioning Gov. Jan Brewer to veto SB 1062 on the grounds that it will drive business out of the state. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has been especially vocal in its opposition.

Brewer has until Feb. 28 to veto the bill. If she signs it, or if she does nothing, it will become law.