Major League Baseball has replaced the National Football League as a central element of the culture wars. The NFL certainly isn’t asking for their crown to be regained.
However, the new voting rights legislation in Georgia has raised many questions about the league’s position. Falcon owner Arthur Blank made a statement after the new law was signed. On Monday Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to League staff regarding the situation.
Excerpts were first published by USA Today’s Mike Jones. PFT has since received a full copy of the memo from Goodell. Under the salutation “Dear Colleagues”, it reads as follows:
“I know that some of you have asked questions about the recent Georgian laws relating to this state’s voting procedures. Other states are also considering voting-related legislation, and we can expect these bills to continue to generate comment and controversy, especially in our current highly charged political environment.
“We know that the right to vote is fundamental and at the core of our democracy. We will always support that right, and the NFL has done so in a full and thoughtful way. Along with our players and so many of you, the NFL and its 32 clubs have shown real leadership through our NFL Votes initiative. This program dealt with impartial and meaningful voting by educating voters, registering voters, and directly assisting voting across the country. We have held more than 50 training courses on voting rights, and across the league, more than 90 percent of our players were registered to vote. The clubs promoted NFL votes in a variety of ways, including through their own NFL vote websites, through on-site signage, and by participating in promotional campaigns on traditional and social media. There have been more than 400,000 unique visits to NFL and club voting sites. Almost 160 million people watched one or more of our spots to promote voting – and even more people were reached through social media. And on election day, tens of thousands cast their votes in 16 NFL stadiums, and clubs provided election workers and voters with PPE, meals, and transportation.
“Our commitment to the right to vote and to fair and transparent elections is unwavering and NFL Votes was not an initiative for just one election cycle. We will continue this important work in the upcoming elections and actively support voters and the right to vote across the country, as we did in 2020. And through initiatives like NFL Votes and Inspire Change, we will continue to listen and learn, bring people and work to make our communities stronger and fairer.
“We will also support the work of our clubs and players in local communities where so many of these issues are discussed and decided. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you the statement Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons made on the new Georgia law. “
The memo does not specifically address the controversial provisions of Georgian law. Blank’s statement simply states:[w]We should work to make voting easier, not more difficult ”and that the organization“ has passed this ideal directly to state officials in recent weeks ”.
The memo does not address the possibility of future league events (Super Bowl and Draft) in Georgia in light of the new voting law, and the league did not specifically respond to our request. Reading between the lines, the league’s position seems to be that it will not take specific action in relation to Georgia.
If the next Super Bowl or draft were to be in Georgia, the league would be in a much tougher place. With no points to date, the league has not made any comprehensive statements about whether Georgia will be a suitable location in the future. By the time the question becomes relevant, the national debate may have continued.
Nearly 30 years ago, the NFL removed a Super Bowl from Arizona because the state refused to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday. Hence, it is no stranger to the league to take a stand that includes non-compliance with league events in a particular jurisdiction.
It’s more difficult for the league in 2021. Some fans are still complaining about protests during the anthem. The backlash currently being felt in Major League Baseball would undoubtedly be directed at the NFL if the NFL took a firm stance on Georgia’s electoral law.
Any attempt to exclude Georgia from NFL events would ultimately open the door to the boomerangs that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is now ducking into, such as whether Manfred will cancel his membership at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters .
Like Manfred, Goodell is a member of Augusta.