The NHL has taken a major step into the political world by making a stance on the Texas bathroom bill. The proposal aims to have people in schools and local government buildings use the bathrooms based on their birth certificates or state-issued ID cards. The Dallas Stars became the first professional Texas sports team to publicly oppose the bill on Wednesday. President Jim Lites included in the team statement, “The Dallas Stars stand strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation. We welcome fans from all over the globe, and our roster boasts players from half a dozen countries. Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.” This sparked both love and outrage from both sides of the legal debate. The team has not been known to make major political stances in the past so them coming out on this topic was a surprise at first. The reason for the stance became clear that afternoon as Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Legal Officer of the NHL, emailed Canadian media outlet Sportsnet stating, “We strongly oppose the bill in its original form… 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.” Basically, the league will move the 2018 draft from Dallas if the bill becomes law. A similar situation took place last year when the NBA moved its All Star game after North Carolina passed a similar LGBT bill.
I personally find it odd that the league would award the draft to Dallas, then tell the Stars less than a month later that they will move it if the bathroom bill passes. The team has been building off a rebrand under new ownership for almost five years, and now they divide their fan base with a political stance. Whoever made the choice to do this may not have fully realized the possible consequences.
As a business decision for the team, it does not make sense for them to get political. However, the NHL as a whole has been very active in the field of inclusion for the past year, and are probably trying to stay consistent with their message. If they did not have the Stars oppose the bill and at the very least, threaten to relocate the draft, then the league would be seen as weak and by some, anti-LGBT. It is notable that the NHL itself has yet to make a public announcement on the matter. A quick search on Bing found only a few media sites had picked up on Daly’s comments to Sportsnet while the Stars’ statement is shared on every outlet big and small across the country.
For Dallas’ sake, I truly hope they don’t lose many of the fans they’ve gained over recent years, and find a way to keep the draft whether the bill passes or not.