Wednesday night, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer tweeted a photo of herself vetoing a controversial bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians, and others on religious grounds:
The veto came as a surprise to people who know Brewer as a staunch conservative who seemingly has no problem signing bills with vocal detractors, such as 2010’s immigration law
. This bill was something different, however, in that huge brands were saying it had to go.
Not only did the state Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses throughout Arizona, oppose the bill, but two huge brands, the National Football League and Major League Baseball, also spoke up in opposition.
"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said, according to Agence France-Presse
The NFL plans to hold Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., and although it made no direct threats to move it elsewhere, there is precedent. The NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona to California after voters rejected making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in the state. The 2014 Super Bowl (held in East Rutherford, N.J.) poured more than a half-billion dollars into the metro New York economy.
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee said in a statement that the bill “would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential.”
Major League Baseball also issued a statement touting “the principles of respect, inclusion, and acceptance.” Half of MLB’s teams hold spring training in Arizona.
“MLB has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation,” an MLB statement said. “Accordingly, MLB will neither support nor tolerate any words, attitudes, or actions that imperil the inclusive communities that we have strived to foster within our game.”
Arizona’s NBA and WNBA teams, the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Mercury, also issued a statement denouncing the bill.
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Perhaps both sports leagues saw the worldwide reaction to the holding of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia—where an anti-gay-propaganda law led to protests and boycotts
—and pressured the Arizona governor to back off. There was certainly something instructive, PR-wise, about this year’s Olympiad.