The NFL took it a step further by saying it would only give Arizona the 1996 Super Bowl if it changed its mind. The NCAA followed suit and outright rebuffed Arizona's offer to host its men's basketball tournament games. By the time Arizona finally got around to recognizing the holiday in 1992, it had lost roughly $200 million from the Super Bowl alone and millions more in hotel, concert and convention bookings.
It's a hard-line stance that the NFL has been trying to take publicly with a bit more consistency. After the University of Missouri's All-American defensive end Michael Sam told ESPN's Outside The Lines earlier this month that he is gay, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell followed up mixed reaction from NFL executives and positive response from current and former NFL players with a more definitive statement from the league.
"Good for him," Goodell said, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello's Twitter page. "He's proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football. We have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. We will have further training and make sure that everyone understands our commitment. We truly believe in diversity and this is an opportunity to demonstrate it."
It isn't a flawless approach -- former NFL punter Chris Kluwe is considering legal action against the Minnesota Vikings for a string of anti-gay remarks he accused a coach of making during his time punting for the team -- but they're huge steps in the right direction. As is a new rule that the NFL is considering that would impose of 15-yard penalty on any player who uses the N-word during a game.
Though a decision won't be made until march, the rule could extend to other types of slurs -- as Chris Bosh of the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat has suggested -- but it falls on the tougher side of penalties issued for such an infraction in any sport. FIFA's fine-and-scold approach to racial slurs in soccer has been deemed so inadequate that players being repeatedly harassed by both other players and fans have taken to simply walking off the field. The National Hockey League's rulebook states in plain language that racial taunts and slurs can result in a game misconduct penalty that takes a player off the ice for the rest of the game and usually results in a fine or suspension.
The NFL is still a flawed league with lots of unresolved issues related to financing and its obligation to taxpayers who fund its operations. That said, its stance on social issues including player bounties, locker-room bullying, race relations and equal opportunity are not only good business, but good citizenship.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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