Throughout 2021 Texas Governor Greg Abbott and majority Republican state legislators have been busy. Perhaps some of you have noticed.
A ban on abortions as early as six weeks was passed in May. In June, he signed a bill calling for a ban on teaching Critical Race Theory , which amounts to a type of censorship and control over what “official” history can be taught. A draconian act to limit voting rights, primarily targeting Black and Hispanic citizens, was signed into law in September.
Then came this past Monday. Four legislative maps that would insure one-party congressional hegemony at the expense of Black and Hispanic voters.
And as Outsports has been following for the better part of the last year, legalized discrimination against transgender school children in the state got Abbott’s signature.
HB25, the trans student-athlete restrictions, was a bigoted, petty political move against the most vulnerable — kids. The struggle over this bill will leave hard memories for transgender people, and not just those who live in Texas.
It was a struggle that saw young people stare in the eyes of lawmakers who had no problem willfully misgendering and demeaning them. You had parents who had to listen as anti-trans legislators and supporters called them “child abusers”.
I could see and feel the image of the late Texas trans rights titan Monica Roberts seething from her grave.
Many of you didn’t get to hear and see what was said in those hearings and debates. The national media didn’t show you the vitriol. The greatest cruelty surrounding HB25 was the broad national indifference to it and the indifference to how all these measures are interconnected.
Some corners of the sports world have connected at least some of the dots. Hundreds of college and pro athletes signed a brief against the state’s action on abortion. Voting rights and attempts to debase them have been a prime concern across leagues and among athletes since last year’s demonstrations.
What is often missed in the discussion is how each of these interconnected, and how that lack of focus affects our society. “The American public as a whole doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation,” Brynn Tannehill, trans rights advocate and author, recently told Outsports. “Whenever you say that this is pretty close to what characterizes fascism it’s ‘No, no, no. It couldn’t happen here’.”
Our nation is still at a delicate time. The COVID pandemic still rages. The spectres of the societal and racial reckoning of last summer, and the attempts to subvert the democratic foundations of the nation still haunt us.
Sports again have shown their enduring power to set a positive tone for society. When Georgia passed a voter suppression law earlier this year, Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Atlanta.
Across the ocean, soccer fans and competitors wouldn’t bow to Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory laws. They met Hungary’s team during European Football Championships with rainbows in resistance even as UEFA chose to stay silent.
Inclusion in sports is blooming from the major North American professional leagues to a breakthrough Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. From Layshia Clarendon, to Carl Nassib, to Quinn, sports continues boldly set a new, positive course.
I believe in the power of sports to set the tone. In the case of Texas, which is slipping looking more and more toward like Orban’s Hungary, it must.
Formula 1 had an exciting United States Grand Prix at the scenic, state-of-the-art Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin last Sunday. I think Formula 1 should send a message: No U.S. Grand Prix in Austin in 2022.
You can also scrub next year’s Miami Grand Prix. Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a trans student-athlete ban on the first day of Pride month. Formula 1 should also take Sebastian Vettel’s example to the next level: Protest Orban’s archaic regime next year by not having the Hungarian Grand Prix next year.
The NCAA said earlier in 2021: “Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.”
The Division I men’s basketball first and second rounds in 2022 are scheduled for Fort Worth and San Antonio. The 2023 men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours are slated respectively in Houston and Dallas. The 2025 men’s Final Four is scheduled to be on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.
You should have little trouble finding willing takers for those events in affirming places. You can also find a new site for the Football Championship Subdivision Finals, too. They are currently held in Frisco, Texas.
College Football Playoff? I haven’t forgotten about you. The 2024 National Championship Game doesn’t need to be in Houston.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell? Super Bowl 60 is up for grabs and you know a certain Mr. Jones in Dallas wants to grab. You should say no to him and you should also tell Arizona and Louisiana, both upcoming Super Bowl hosts, that should they pass such any similar types of discriminatory legislation those games get moved elsewhere. Arizona should know better because it's happened to them before.
Texas, Florida, and a growing list of states, seek to be discriminatory, apartheid states. There is historical precedent in how sports responds to those kinds of places. Such places get left out in the cold.
South Africa knows that history well because it defiantly shivered for years. When the racist apartheid system was dismantled in the early 1990s, the nation’s athletes and teams were warmly welcomed back to international sports.
Now is the time for sports to make reactionary states like Texas shiver again.