Opinion: Don’t use Dallas Cowboys’ name, AT&T Stadium to mainstream anti-trans hate
I'm tired. Just really tired.
Tired of ignorance. Tired of fear. Tired of how some use both as weapons, cloaking bigotry as patriotism or religious freedom.
The latter happened with a man named Ken Harrison, the chairman and CEO of the Promise Keepers, an Evangelical Christian organization that opposes same-sex marriage and champions that men should head the household. Harrison appeared recently on an extremist right-wing show when he said, in part:
"One of the things they're doing to make their agenda happen is destroying the identity of the American people, and if they can get Christians, especially Christian men, to sit down, be silent and be passive, then they can be effective.
"It's working. Christian men are not standing up for what's right. I mean, you think about how quickly we went from homosexual marriage to men putting on dresses, being called women, and playing on women's basketball teams. Where are the Christian men?"
The Dallas Cowboys play at AT&T Stadium, which will host a Promise Keepers event in July. (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)
Who is the "they" he's referring to? Not sure. Some combination of the HollywoodLiberalEliteLeftistSocialistsCommunists.
Normally, a story like this would just stay in that corner of the Internet and do what that type of stuff does.
Except this time is different, because this time, the Promise Keepers are having a live event in July at AT&T Stadium. The same stadium used by the Dallas Cowboys. Harrison says there will be "80,000 Christian men" attending.
Comments like Harrison's shouldn't be anywhere near an NFL team. A company like AT&T shouldn't be associated with them, either.
In an email interview with USA TODAY Sports, Harrison was asked if he regretted making those comments.
"Look, today’s culture is blurring the lines when it comes to sexual identity," he wrote. "Both Promise Keepers and I subscribe to a Biblical worldview when it comes to male and female, and that’s one of the religious freedoms we celebrate in our nation. Sometimes we agree with culture, and sometimes we don’t."
Harrison, in response to my labeling his words as hate speech, responded, "The irony of defining my words as hate speech is that is exactly the opposite of what we teach. All people everywhere are welcome to come to our rally to celebrate and be unified around the fact that God forgives the sins of all who believe in Jesus."
Obviously, all people are not welcome.
By allowing this conference to happen at one of football's meccas, and by AT&T allowing it, they are helping to mainstream hate speech.
Not only are Harrison's remarks offensive, they're also inaccurate. To portray Christianity as somehow under siege is just folly. While the number of adults who identify themselves as Christian is shrinking, according to Pew Research, in 2019, 65 percent of the country identified itself that way. That's a super majority, not an aggrieved party.
Harrison isn't just some no-name guy, either. He heads a powerful organization, and his bio says he's a former U.S. Navy SEAL.
His hateful words continue a trend of right-wing leaders and lawmakers attacking the transgender community. There are a number of anti-trans bills popping up all across the country. This is just bigotry. There's no other way to say it.
In many ways, the fight to protect trans people is one of the great civil rights battles of our time.
It has many of the same hallmarks as other such fights: A group of people under attack from the majority; those same people simply want to exist, but a series of laws and exclusionary acts try to erase them; the use of religion to justify those acts.
It's tiring. So tiring as we watch history repeat.
For a good example of how the arguments against trans athletes are completely fabricated, look no further than this blistering interview MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle did with Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia.
"Can you give me one example of a transgender child trying to get an unfair advantage, just one, in your state? You signed a bill about it,” Ruhle said.
"No, I can't really tell you one," Justice said. “But I can tell you this, Stephanie … I coach a girl's basketball team and I can tell you … we all know what an absolute advantage boys would have playing against girls. We don't need that.”
Ruhle then pointed to West Virginia's low rankings, according to U.S. News and World Report, in its infrastructure, economic and educational standings, and asked why he was focusing on this with so many other pressing issues.
“I didn't make it a priority," he said. "It wasn't my bill.”
“Well, you signed it, sir,” Ruhle said.
“I think we only have 12 kids maybe in our state that are transgender-type kids,” Justice said. “I mean for crying out loud, Stephanie, I sign hundreds of bills, hundreds of bills. This is not a priority to me.”
"All right then, sir, thank you," Ruhle said. "And please come back when, beyond anecdotal feelings as a coach, you can show me evidence where those young women are being disadvantaged in your state."
Again, this is about generating fear. Angering a base. Making a group of people a scapegoat. As Ruhle demonstrated by putting a clown suit on the governor, there's no fact-based argument against allowing trans kids to compete.
And this isn't about religion, so please don't try that banana in the tailpipe trick. It's not anti-Christian to point out bigotry.
What could the Cowboys do? The team essentially rents the stadium, so it's true they technically can't prevent the Promise Keepers from being there.
But if owner Jerry Jones, one of the most powerful men in all of sports, didn't want the event to occur at the stadium, he could likely use his influence to make it disappear. Same with AT&T.
The battle against this type of bigotry is fought, in part, on this level. Don't allow men like Harrison to use mainstream symbols like football, and a legendary business, as vessels to circulate hatred.
President Joe Biden is extremely religious, and his faith doesn't stop him from seeing trans people as human beings.
"To all transgender Americans watching at home," Biden said on Wednesday during his first address to Congress, "especially the young people. You’re so brave. I want you to know your president has your back."
It was an historic and remarkable moment.
Biden gives hope that eventually good will win against hate. That sounds simplistic, but it's accurate.
But for now, it's still frustrating and angering that people like Harrison exploit fear and use football to do it.
It's all so tiring.
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