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Despite HERO vote, NFL sticks with Houston for Super Bowl LI

Spokesman says league will work with host committee to "make sure all fans feel welcomed"

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 (Photo: Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail, USAF, via Wikimedia Commons).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 (Photo: Staff Sgt. Bradley Lail, USAF, via Wikimedia Commons).

Despite pressure from LGBT activists following the overwhelming defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) on Tuesday, the National Football League is not budging on its decision to hold the 51st Super Bowl in Houston in 2017. 

“This will not affect our plans for Super Bowl LI in 2017,” Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, told NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “We will work closely with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee to make sure all fans feel welcomed at our events. Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”

HERO, which would have prohibited discrimination against a number of protected classes, including LGBT people, was passed in May 2014 by the Houston City Council. Opponents tried to petition it to the ballot, but failed to garner enough valid signatures. The Texas Supreme Court later interceded and forced the ordinance to be placed on the ballot. HERO was eventually defeated, garnering only 39 percent of the vote to opponents’ 61 percent. 

Supporters of the LGBT community launched a petition at soon after the election results came in, arguing that the NFL should move the Super Bowl from Houston. As of mid-day Thursday, the petition had received 2,287 signatures.

Some had speculated that the NFL might be pressured to change the venue for the Super Bowl due to the influence of the LGBT community, in the same way that it seriously considered moving the 2015 Super Bowl from Arizona after lawmakers attempted to pass a law that would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That measure was eventually killed with a veto from then-Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican. 

But while the NFL is refusing to budge on the 2017 Super Bowl, supporters of equality can take a small measure of solace that there might be at least some form of karmic justice. On Wednesday, Houston lost three separate bids to host the College Football Championship game for 2018, 2019 and 2020. As LGBT sports website OutSports notes, the three cities that Houston lost two — Atlanta, San Francisco, and New Orleans — all have nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals enacted into law.





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