WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — The National Football League is reportedly considering moving the Pro Bowl from Hawaii this upcoming season to Arizona, the home of the next Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports the NFL is considering the move to get more revenue for the league.
“They want to create an environment where they can bring more fans to it and get more of a revenue-generating experience for the NFL,” the league source told the Press-Gazette. “Doing that in Hawaii, because of how far you have to get so much of your fan base, it’s tough. But if you do it in the states where it’s a significantly shorter flight and a less expensive flight, just the investment of getting people to the game – the feeling is as long as they can maintain the competitive nature of it, they can really turn it into a revenue-generating experience.”
Holding the Pro Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale all hinges on whether or not the Super Bowl will still be played in the state next year.
The Arizona Legislature passed a controversial bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.
According to The Arizona Republic, business leaders fear the NFL might move the Super Bowl out of the state if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the bill into law.
“On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state’s economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation,” the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee told the Republic in a statement.
The NFL said it is monitoring the situation.
“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 told the Republic.“We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
It is not unprecedented for the NFL to relocate a Super Bowl. Then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona to California because state voters failed to approve creating a holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.
Brewer will likely spend the next day or more pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation.
There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she’ll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation.
Some Republican senators who pushed the bill through the Legislature are now calling for a veto as well, but they cite “inaccurate” information about the measure for igniting a firestorm. They argue the bill is designed only to protect business owners with strong religious beliefs from discrimination lawsuits that have happened in other states. Some blame the media for blowing the law out of proportion.
Democrats say that argument doesn’t wash and call SB1062 “toxic” legislation that allows discrimination. They said they warned Republicans who voted for the bill that it was destined for trouble.
“We brought this to their attention five weeks ago,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “We said this is exactly what is going to happen. You have a bill here that’s so toxic it’s going to divide this Legislature. It’s going to be polarizing the entire state. And that’s exactly what happened.”
The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal simply clarifies existing state law and is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.
The center’s president, Cathi Herrod, has been deriding what she called “fear-mongering” from the measure’s opponents.
“What’s happened is our opponents have employed a new political tactic, and it’s working,” she said. “Throw out the threat of a boycott to attempt to defeat a bill, and you might just be able to be successful.
Herrod added she was surprised and disappointed that “in America today, false attacks and irresponsible characterizations about a piece of legislation can so intimidate and persuade people to change their opinion about religious liberty.”
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