Hey, NFL and NFL teams:
I know 2020 was kind of a blur for many of us, what with the COVID-induced sameness of day-to-day life, when a great number of us found ourselves suddenly thrust into a routine that meant not only working from home but also becoming teachers, tutors, tech supporters, and Zoomers. And to be honest, it took its toll.
But that doesn't mean we've forgotten.
We haven't forgotten your solemn team statements after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, your sudden interest in Juneteenth and encouraging team employees to patronize a Black-owned business or read a book by a Black author, or your token gestures like painting "End Racism" on fields for a couple of weeks. We haven't forgotten commissioner Roger Goodell's video where he said "We, the National Football League, condemn ... the systematic oppression of Black people.”
And this week, we saw the memo Goodell sent to league employees recently, which highlighted the voting rights efforts the league and teams promoted last year while almost blithely ignoring the actual depths of depravity Georgia lawmakers went to in their omnibus voting restriction law, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last month under a painting of a former slave plantation where 100 Black human beings had been kept in bondage.
We're here to remind you of those past words and demand that if your current words have any meaning, it's time to act.
Super Bowl LVII is set to return to Glendale, Ariz. in February 2023. Yes, that's nearly two years from now.
But what isn't two years from now are the voter suppression laws that Republican legislators in that state are trying to pass, laws that figure to disproportionately affect Black, Brown and Native voters in Arizona.
Via the Brennan Center for Justice, state legislators have introduced 23 bills around voting, including making absentee voting more difficult, making it easier to remove citizens from early-voting rolls, preventing voter registration drives on non-government property, and prohibiting two things that have been successful in other states: automatic voter registration and Election Day registration.
You have the power to stop these bills from passing, NFL.
(I reached out to the NFL for comment twice and did not get a response. George Atallah of the NFL Players Association, which has no say in where the Super Bowl is played, said voting rights are a priority for the union's social justice task force, and that both the task force and union executives are keeping a close eye on Arizona and other states.)
Instead of being reactionary, as Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta were after that state's grotesque voting changes were signed into law, you can go to Arizona lawmakers (quietly, if you'd prefer) and tell them that Super Bowl LVII, and any Super Bowl after that, won't be in their state if they pass these bills.
You wouldn't be alone in this action, either. You saw MLB's decision to move this year's All-Star game out of Georgia, and in 2017, North Carolina's attempt at a so-called "bathroom bill" cost it an estimated $3.76 billion after the NCAA pulled tournament games and the NBA pulled its All-Star Game from there.
North Carolina rescinded the bill, but the financial damage was done.
In 2015, the NCAA — which is headquartered in Indianapolis — pressured the state of Indiana over a "religious freedom restoration" law that targeted LGBTQ individuals, and the law was altered.
But even if telling Arizona to nix its racist anti-voting bills or lose the Super Bowl wasn't so clearly the right thing to do, the vast majority of your fans agree. According to a January Data for Progress poll, 67 percent of Americans support Congress' H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," which includes a host of changes meant to make the right to vote easier, not harder, for all.
And NFL, you've fought for the right side of history before, remember?
In 1991, team owners voted to pull Super Bowl XXVII out of Arizona and move it to the Rose Bowl because Arizona voters didn't make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday.
King is an icon, and so much of what he fought for are things we're still fighting for today, but a holiday is window dressing.
Hosting a Super Bowl is a privilege. Voting is fundamental right. In the last few months after Democrats, buoyed by Black voter turnout in particular, elected Joe Biden to the presidency and then elected Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to Georgia's U.S. Senate seats, the reaction in Republican-led state legislative bodies hasn't been to do a better job of convincing citizens to vote for them. It's been to make voting harder for those who historically don't vote for them. As of March 24, the Brennan Center counted over 350 proposed laws aimed at restricting voting, across numerous states.
You offered your stadiums as voting sites last November. You've said, as individual teams and as a league, that voting rights is a key issue for you. You've acknowledged the historical and continuing oppression of Black Americans and other marginalized communities. You know that over two-thirds of your players are Black, and they are growing less and less afraid every day to exercise their power to push for change. (To be clear, it's not on those Black players to convince you or anyone else that they deserve the rights codified to them in our Constitution.)
Actions are always more powerful than words.
It's time to act, NFL. Tell Arizona Super Bowl LVII is gone from Glendale unless legislators kill these voter suppression bills.
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