Downtown Atlanta’s skyline from Jackson Street (Photo: Matt Lemmon, via Wikimedia).
Atlanta is being richly rewarded with the chance to host a Super Bowl following a skirmish earlier this year over a bill that was being pushed by some lawmakers in the Georgia legislature.
The National Football League (NFL) announced on Tuesday that Atlanta was selected by a vote of NFL owners to be the host of Super Bowl LIII, in February 2019. Atlanta’s main rival for the nation’s biggest football championship game was New Orleans, with Miami and Tampa having been eliminated during earlier balloting, reports NBC Sports.
Earlier this year, though, it seemed as though Georgia might sacrifice an opportunity to host a Super Bowl — and the resulting economic boom that is bestowed upon host cities from the outside spending of players, league officials and attendees. In March, as lawmakers flirted with passing a “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of religion, the NFL put its foot down.
An NFL spokesman warned that the league had concerns about the measure, and would be taking into account whether local and state laws condoned discrimination against any class of people, including based on sexual orientation. The statement was particularly concerning to Atlanta officials, who had already spent significant money on building a new football stadium with the idea of hosting another Super Bowl in mind. The NFL’s threat of taking Atlanta out of consideration also came amid a bout of bad press for Georgia lawmakers and calls for an economic boycott of the state should the bill pass. Even other Georgia business groups began applying pressure on Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to veto the bill, saying the potential damage to the state’s reputation would reduce the number of future economic opportunities made available to the state.
In the end, Deal vetoed the measure, saying it did not “reflect the character of our state or the character of its people” and was unnecessary, as the protections enumerated in the bill were already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
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