PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Here at TheStreet, we try to keep an eye on the National Football League because it is a huge public investment.
It is protected by a federal antitrust exemption. It's a tax-exempt organization with $9.5 billion in revenue, it uses public money to build and refurbish stadiums. It blacks out games broadcast from those stadiums on public airwaves at whim. When it doesn't get what it wants, it threatens to move out of host cities until it's able to extort its asking price from them.
As a league afforded a considerable amount of the public trust, the NFL owes taxpaying fans some accountability for its business practices. The NFL can be a bankrupting negative space in the communities surrounding it, or it can be a positive influence.
In the last couple of weeks, the NFL has proven itself a whole lot more of the latter.Earlier this week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a religious freedom bill approved by the state legislature that would have allowed business owners to use their religious beliefs as grounds to deny service to anyone they chose. Beyond the fact that the bill was an outright violation of Title VIII on the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- which specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin -- it wasn't exactly a piece of legislation that the NFL was fond of. The NFL is slated to hold its next Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and was none too pleased to have itself or its sponsors linked to state-sponsored discrimination. Sports Illustrated reported earlier this week that the league was already considering other locations for the 2015 Super Bowl -- estimated to generate at least $500 million in local revenue -- while ESPN discovered that Arizona's Super Bowl host committee went right to Brewer's office to make her aware of the implications of her decision. The possible consequences included not only losing the Super Bowl, but forfeiting its right to host the Pro Bowl in Glendale a week before the big game. Without voicing any clear stance on the legislation, the NFL made its intentions clear in a statement reminding Arizona of the fact that its "policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.'' It was also a subtle reminder that the NFL isn't afraid to just yank its marquee event away from Arizona when it takes a step backward. The NFL moved its 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe to Pasadena, Calif., after Arizona voted against recognizing a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1990.