You Can Play: NHL, Stars send 'clear and compassionate' message with stance on 'bathroom bill'

Justin Cuthbert
The NHL suggests it will “reassess” if the “bathroom bill” is enacted in the Texas senate. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

On Wednesday, the Dallas Stars took a formal stance against the “bathroom bill,” the anti-transgender legislation proposed in the Republican-controlled Texas Senate aiming to establish restrictions on bathroom usage based solely on “biological sex.”

Other major companies and professional sports teams in the area have previously spoken out against it, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, but the Stars became the first professional sports organization to formally reject the proposed law at the organizational level.

Stars president Jim Lites issued this statement via the team’s official website:

When the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 we were fortunate to encounter success early on, and we’ve cultivated what we consider to be the best fan base in the National Hockey League. Dallas was warm and welcoming when we came to this great city 25 years ago, and it remains so today. The Dallas Stars stands 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.

We’re thrilled that Dallas will host the NHL Draft next year, and we’re grateful that the NHL sees the true Dallas that we know and love, a Dallas that is friendly and vibrant. Dallas will be a wonderful host city and we’re grateful for the NHL’s business. We are proud of our home and want every visitor to feel at home here, too, and that’ s why we oppose this discriminatory bathroom legislation.

The league’s decision to award the 2018 NHL Draft to Dallas was met with strong opposition from many human rights groups, activists and fans. Some questioned the NHL’s commitment to the LGBTQ community despite its partnerships and initiatives – like many had months previously when Ryan Getzlaf avoided a suspension in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after shouting a homophobic slur at an official.

You Can Play, an organization devoted to ensuring equal rights for athletes – and a partner with the NHL since 2013 – urged the league reconsider holding one of its major events in a state that has “chosen to write discrimination into law.”

Not long after Lites’ comments were publicized, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector stating that the league also “strongly (opposes)” the bill and that it would “reassess the situation” if the controversial legislation is passed into law.

You Can Play thanked the Stars on Wednesday and, when contacted by Yahoo Sports, co-founder and president Brian Kitts commended both the organization and the NHL for taking a stand against the discriminatory legislature.

The message that Jim Lites, the Dallas Stars and the NHL have sent is clear and compassionate. Stating their values starts a conversation among other teams and leagues and that’s vital. Starting the conversation builds on outreach by athletes and teams across all communities, providing assurance that including all athletes and fans is valued.

Fans and athletes want to be proud of their hometown teams.  The Dallas Stars have done right by their fans, their athletes and visitors to their community.

Several days after You Can Play questioned the NHL, asking that it “carefully considers” the message staging the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas sends to fans, Kitts reaffirmed the league’s commitment to social change and equal rights.

“The NHL has been an unquestioned leader among sports organizations for its support of LGBTQ athletes and fans,” Kitts said. “This league-wide leadership, combined with the Dallas Stars’ work at the local level, creates a consistent message of inclusion – that’s incredibly important.”

Texas lawmakers failed to pass the latest iteration of the “bathroom bill” in May. It has since been brought back to the floor but isn’t expected to generate the necessary support, meaning that the NHL likely will not have to revisit its decision to stage the draft in Dallas.

The NBA took the All-Star Game from the Charlotte Hornets and state of North Carolina earlier this year over similarly discriminatory legislature. It is estimated that the All-Star event would have had a $100-million impact on the local economy, according to NBA.com.

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