Now, with a vote on the next two available Super Bowls set for May, Atlanta could run into serious opposition if the religious exemptions law is signed by Deal. The other finalists are Miami and New Orleans, which have hosted the game more than any other cities, and four-time site Tampa.
Supporters of the bill say it is needed to protect the rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, including their refusal to serve or hire someone. Gay-rights advocates say the measure amounts to legalized discrimination, while business groups fear the sort of economic backlash that Indiana faced after passage of a broader law in 2015.
The SEC, which has held its football championship game in Atlanta for the past 22 years, agreed to a decade-long contract to hold the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference is keeping an eye on the religious exemptions bill.
“We are attentive to this legislative matter as we continue our policy of considering numerous factors in determining sites for our championship events,” he said in a statement Monday.
The College Football Playoff, which is not governed by the NCAA, seems more likely to keep its 2018 title game in Atlanta, no matter what the governor decides. The playoff also includes the Peach Bowl, which serves as host of a semifinal game every third season in Atlanta.
Executive director Bill Hancock indicated the CFP’s desire to stay out of the debate.
“We will keep an eye on this but our group’s focus is on sports,” he said in a statement, adding that “public policy matters are better left to the experts and voters to resolve.”
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