NFL: Hey, you know what would really improve our ratings? A transgender bathroom bill fight

You may have missed it in the rush of “other news” last month, but Texas is considering implementing their own transgender bathroom bill similar to the one in North Carolina which we spent most of 2016 fighting over. That’s a question for another day and surely will not be resolved until the Supreme Court has a crack at it. In the meantime however, plenty of folks will want to be jumping on the bandwagon. One unexpected entrant into this particular field of battle seems to be the National Football League. For reasons which currently baffle me, the NFL decided to weigh in on the subject this week and issue what sounds something like a warning to the Lone Star State, hinting that Texas may not be hosting any more Super Bowl events if they follow such a path. (Weekly Standard)

Days after the Super Bowl in Houston, the NFL is warning Texas that legislation requiring individuals to use public bathrooms in accordance with their biological sex could cost the state future opportunities to host the big game.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law (in Texas), that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email response to a Chronicle question about the bill.

It was the league’s first statement on the matter since the legislation was introduced in January.

First of all, just for the record, this doesn’t look like something that Roger Goodell’s office decided to jump into feet first. The NFL spokesman in question was responding to a query from the Houston Chronicle. Still, this one probably could’ve used a quick pass in the front office before staking out this particular position. Unfortunately for the league, unless they plan on throwing this guy under the bus they may be stuck with it now.

Is this really the sort of fight that the NFL wants to take on right now? We’ve done countless articles here detailing the ongoing slide in ratings that football has suffered. The reasons for this are not much of a mystery to anybody. We spent untold amounts of time talking about people kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, issuing statements on public policy and players making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The league did themselves no favors by either endorsing such non-football related activities or choosing to remain silent. Even when it came time for the big game, they decided to invite Lady Gaga (who was already making a name for herself in political circles) and then leave the fans wondering whether or not she was going to turn halftime into a 2020 political campaign advertisement.

The net effect has been obvious. People are turned off and increasingly tuning out. Not only were the ratings for the regular-season poor compared to an average year, but even the Super Bowl itself dropped to a three-year low in viewership. People traditionally watch football for one reason and one reason only: to enjoy the game and escape from the tedious or even torturous realities of daily life. There are probably few debates in the public sphere currently more contentious than the transgender bathroom issue. Is this what the NFL wants to be known for in 2017? And particularly in Texas?

If anyone happens to be talking to the commissioner in the near future I’d appreciate it if they passed along a brief message from me. This is a bad idea and you are managing to ruin one of the best things left about America. Get back to playing the game and leave the politics to the politicians.