Sports Illustrated reports that the National Football League is actively considering moving the 2015 Super Bowl out of Arizona if Governor Jan Brewer allows a proposed "turn away the gays" bill to become law.
Even as momentum continues to build against Arizona's controversial bill that would allow businesses to deny service to gay couples on religious grounds, the NFL on Wednesday morning began investigating the necessary steps to move next season's Super Bowl from the Phoenix area, if the proposal becomes law, a source close to the situation confirmed.
The Tampa Bay area finished as the runner-up and was the only other finalist in the bidding for Super Bowl XLIX, which was awarded to Arizona in October 2011, and would in all likelihood be the NFL's first option for relocating the game at this relatively late date. Next season's Super Bowl is scheduled to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale, Ariz., but the religious rights measure known as Senate Bill 1062 might jeopardize the area's host duties.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has until the end of the day Saturday to veto the bill, sign it into law, or ignore it. While a host of Arizona business leaders this week have urged Brewer to veto the proposal, the NFL is taking seriously the possibility that it will become law, likely prompting the league to pull the plug on an Arizona Super Bowl for the second time in its history.
The NFL moved its 1993 Super Bowl from the Phoenix area to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in reaction to Arizona voting down the effort to establish a state holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fall of 1990. After the King holiday measure passed in 1992, the NFL awarded its 1996 Super Bowl to Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium.
Could history be repeating itself in Arizona's always hotly contested political climate? The NFL remains hopeful of the bill's demise, but the league's senior level staff has begun grappling with the daunting logistical scenario of moving its showcase event elsewhere less than a year before the game is played, and after 28 months of planning have already gone into the Arizona effort.
"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.
For its part, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has strongly condemned SB 1062, the "right to discriminate" bill.
Reporter Don Banks notes that the cancellation of Super Bowl XLIX may amount to a "double whammy" for the state, since the NFL was considered likely to also award the 2015 Pro Bowl to Glendale, Arizona. It would be held the Sunday before the Super Bowl. But if Brewer allows the LGBT segregation bill to go into effect, though, all bets are off.