Jindal fumbles the ball

Negative perception of governor’s “religious freedom” bill could cost New Orleans its 11th Super Bowl

            There’s dumb and there’s stupid.      

            Louisiana Governor and presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal isn’t dumb. But he sure is making some stupid moves lately.

            On Tuesday the NFL invited Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Tampa to bid on upcoming Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020. With 10 Super Bowls played in New Orleans, the Crescent City is currently tied with Miami for hosting the most NFL Championships, but faces many challenges to win the right to host another. 

            Despite concerns about the Superdome’s age and readiness to host the big game, New Orleans was again a finalist. Big events mean big money for the city and state, and the Super Bowl is one of the biggest. According to The Financial Times, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that this year's Super Bowl generated $206 million in direct spending in the Phoenix area in tourism, lodging and transportation.

            After losing out last year on the 2018 Super Bowl, which would have coincided with New Orleans’ Tricentennial celebrations, Tuesday should have been a day for celebration. Instead it turned into a quagmire as the governor’s order has more to do with his political future than bettering prospects for the people of Louisiana.

            We know Jindal is educated. He studied biology and public policy at Brown University and political science from Oxford. The Ivy Leaguer and Rhodes Scholar has had a meteoric rise in his career, having previously served as a U. S. House representative, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and president of the University of Louisiana System.

            But he has his eyes locked on the White House, and he’s being blinded by his ambition.

            Nationally, he’s polling in the low single digits. So low in fact that he may not be on stage for the first Republican debate, which Fox News will limit to the top 10 polling candidates.

            Jindal is now grasping at straws to remain relevant.

            On the same day as the NFL’s announcement, the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee voted 10-2 to delay moving forward House Bill 707, the Marriage and Conscience Act. The bill aims to provide First Amendment protections to businesses and business owners whose religious beliefs oppose same-sex marriage and thus “prevent” them from serving or recognizing same sex couples.

            Despite the substantial vote to table the bill, Jindal issued an executive order with immediate effect to enforce its intent. It will remain on the books until 60 days after the end of the 2016 legislative session or upon repeal when our next governor enters office in January.

            “This Executive Order will prohibit the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman,” the governor said in a statement.

            The order allows for legal discrimination and will result in a heap of negative attention – which has already started – resulting in a destructive financial impact for the city and state. Similar religious freedom arguments have been used for centuries by white supremacists in this country to encode racial minorities into second-class citizenship. This is no different.

            The tourism and business industry, led by New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and Greater New Orleans Inc., have lined up against the bill, with NOCVB CEO Stephen Perry calling the bill “radioactive, poisonous.”

            Perry said the state could lose as much as $65 million a year in tax revenue because visitors, businesses, organizations and convention planners view the bill as discriminatory.

            The order is similar to bills recently passed in Indiana and Arkansas, which have drawn the consternation of modern, civil society, including numerous civil rights groups, businesses and organizations.

            Why would Jindal choose to pander to a point of view that is growing narrower each day rather than take the viewpoint that all Americans are entitled to legal equality? For a politician, it doesn’t make sense.

            New Orleans is no doubt a city financially dependent on tourism. We need to do all we can to roll out a red-carpet welcome to those visitors who want to come here to celebrate our culture, climate and events.

            The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation says athletic events have had more than a $2 billion economic impact for the city and state over the past 26 years. The American sports culture is increasing steadily, and so is the pile of money available to be made by host cities through their events and franchises.

            In previous columns and blog posts for Biz New Orleans, I’ve written about the increasing odds the Crescent City is facing in landing the “Big 3” American sporting events – the Super Bowl, the College Football National Championship and the Final Four. It is estimated that as many as 150 million Americans – nearly half of the country’s population – watch part of the broadcast of Big 3 events. The value of advertising that comes with the game telecast, not to mention the hype on major broadcast networks, cable, the web and social media before and after the game, is priceless for the city.

            The Super Dome is competing with stadia being constructed today. Think about all of the technological advances made in the past decade, now expand that by four. Although the dome continues to be updated, it’s 40 years old. While we may love it, not everyone does.

            I’ve gone as far as to propose that city, state and regional leaders begin working on a plan for to replace the Superdome with a new $1 billion-plus stadium as an investment to keep New Orleans as one of the nation’s premier sporting destinations.

            At this point, we need to do everything we can do to improve our chances of playing host to not only sporting events, but conventions, trade shows, and the like.

            Two years ago Jindal delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting where he chided the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

            “It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that,” he claimed.

            Unfortunately, he hasn’t been wise enough to heed his own advice. And he may prevent New Orleans from reaching a major economic goal line as a result.

 

Categories: The Pennant Chase