The College Football Playoff has not determined the fate of its 2018 national championship game held in Atlanta in light of the Georgia Senate passing House Bill 757, a “Religious Liberty” bill that allows faith-based organizations or individuals to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. The bill also allows those organizations or individuals the right to refuse to hire or the right to fire individuals whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, for comment regarding the passage of the bill, which will not become law until it obtains the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.
“We deplore discrimination wherever it occurs and note that there is a public debate about this matter and its implications, as well as whether or not it will become law,” Hancock said in his statement. “We will keep an eye on this, but our group’s focus is on sports and public policy matters are better left to the experts and voters to resolve.”
Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is scheduled to host a CFP semifinal on Dec. 31, 2016.
While the CFP hasn’t explicitly said it would look for a change of venue if the religious liberty bill became law, it would be in the minority in terms of taking a stand. Major companies such as Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Google and Microsoft have all opposed the law as have the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Falcons. More importantly, the NFL is already re-evaluating Atlanta’s bid to host the Super Bowl in either 2019 or 2020 in its new $1.3 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This is the same stadium that would host the CFP’s national title game.
The NFL’s statement had a similar tone to Hancock’s.
“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”
Similarly, the 2020 Final Four also could be in jeopardy. The NCAA already issued a warning to Indiana that it could lose future collegiate championship because of its “religious freedom” law.
Deal has not shown support for the bill and has cited the New Testament as a call for tolerance instead of discrimination.
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