Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the controversial "religious rights" bill Wednesday, but not before MLB and others in the pro sports world spoke out against it. Senate Bill 1062 — which would have let business owners refuse service to anyone if it's against their personal religious beliefs — was passed by the state legislature last week, and needed Brewer's sign-off to become law.
She turned it down, saying at a news conference, "My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona. I call them like I seem them despite the tears or the boos from the crowd."
What made Senate Bill 1062 so controversial is that it, in essence, would have allowed businesses to discriminate against the gay community without fear of being sued. Some believed the NFL would have moved the Super Bowl out of Arizona if the bill passed. Phoenix's NBA and WNBA teams issued a statement against the bill. And Major League Baseball denounced Senate Bill 1062 about 90 minutes before it was vetoed:
In its statement issued Wednesday afternoon pre-veto, MLB said:
“As the sport of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball and its 30 Clubs stand united behind the principles of respect, inclusion and acceptance. Those values are fundamental to our game’s diverse players, employees and fans. We welcome individuals of different sexual orientations, races, religions, genders and national origins.
“MLB has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation, as reflected by our collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association. Accordingly, MLB will neither support nor tolerate any words, attitudes or actions that imperil the inclusive communities that we have strived to foster within our game.”
The Seattle Mariners issued an individual statement prior to the veto too, and it had an ever stronger call to action than MLB's:
"The Seattle Mariners have enjoyed 37 years of spring training in Arizona. Our fans flock to Peoria for baseball in March, and have always been made to feel welcome by the businesses and good people of Arizona. This should apply to all of our fans. The Mariners respect and value diversity. We welcome fans of all races, colors, religious beliefs, nationalities, ages, and sexual orientations. We believe that intolerance has no place in our game or society. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 1062 sends a message that not everyone is welcome. We hope Governor Brewer will reject that message."
Major League Baseball and the state of Arizona are more deeply wed than either the NFL or pro basketball. Baseball sends half of its teams to Arizona for spring training, and creates a month-long tourism boon. In addition, the Arizona Diamondbacks play there too.
A 2012 study from the Cactus League Baseball Association figured that spring training and year-round use of the Cactus League ballparks added $632 million to the Arizona economy, bringing in 1.7 million fans to games, more than half of whom are from out of state. The study said out-of-state visitors stayed in the Phoenix metro area for 5.3 nights.
MLB didn't go as far as to threaten to leave Arizona and take all that with it. But given its significant economic impact in the state, you can bet Governor Brewer heard what MLB had to say, even if she had largely made up her mind already.
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