The NHL became the first major professional sports league to publicly oppose an anti-LGBTQ bill currently making its way through the Texas Legislature, joining the Dallas Stars in opposition, per Sportsnet’s Mark Spector. The league also said it will “reassess” hosting the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas if the bill passes.
“We strongly oppose the bill in its original form,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet. “We hope and expect that bill in that form will not be passed into law. We would obviously have to reassess the situation in the event that happens.”
The NHL recently awarded the 2018 NHL Draft to Dallas, but that decision would come under fire if Texas passes a controversial “bathroom bill” that would discriminate against transgender people.
A version of the bill recently passed the state Senate in Texas, and a different version is currently being debated in the House of Representatives. Reports indicate that the chances of the bill becoming law have decreased due to “suddenly vocal opposition of Texas’ largest corporate interests,” but it could still happen.
The bill that passed through the state Senate “would require transgender people to use bathrooms in schools and local government buildings corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates or state-issued identification cards,” according to The New York Times. The House is reportedly discussing a bill that “would prevent school districts and county or local governments from adopting or enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that would allow transgender people to use bathrooms of their choice.”
Many businesses have come out opposing the anti-LGBTQ bills, but the NHL is the first major professional sports league to do so. That makes sense given that the 2018 NHL Draft would be hosted in the state’s largest city, and there’s precedent for a major professional sports league moving a major event because of similar legislation.
Last year, the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans after North Carolina passed an anti-LGBTQ “bathroom bill.” At the time, commissioner Adam Silver said the state’s new law was “inconsistent with the values of the league.”
The same would go for the NHL, which has been part of several initiatives to fight discrimination in sports, including You Can Play and Hockey Is For Everyone. The league hasn’t always lived up to that — and example is its failure to suspend Ryan Getzlaf for using a homophobic slur during a playoff game in the spring — but not opposing this bill would’ve sent a message to a lot of hockey fans around the world.
Now we’ll just have to see whether the NHL would actually back up its words if the bill passes. It’s an unfortunate situation for the Stars and the city of Dallas, which would surely love to host the draft. This year, it was held at the United Center in Chicago.