Sports Team Owner Gets Donation Back from Anti-LGBT Group

by John Riley

Metro Weekly

Sunday November 1, 2015

Bob McNair, the owner and CEO of the Houston Texans football team, is asking for his money back.

McNair, who contributed more than $10,000 to the Campaign for Houston, the organization aimed at overturning the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), has asked for his donation to be returned after opponents of HERO made what he called "unauthorized statements" about his opposition to the measure.

McNair said that, after reviewing HERO, he believed that the ordinance could be rewritten or scaled back in a way that would still provide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, without being as divisive. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

"To my great dismay, Campaign for Houston made numerous unauthorized statements about my opposition to HERO in print, broadcast and social media - including attributing certain statements of belief to me," McNair said in the statement, which was first reported by the progressive website ThinkProgress. "Their actions and statements were never discussed with nor approved by me. Therefore I instructed the Campaign to return my contribution.

"I do not believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind," McNair's statement continues. "I also believe that we Houstonians should have an ordinance that unites our community and provides a bold statement of nondiscrimination. I encourage all Houstonians to vote on November 3."

According to The Houston Chronicle, Jared Woodfill, a spokesman for the Campaign for Houston said the campaign would not cash McNair's check. But conservatives and HERO opponents had pointed to McNair's donation as evidence that repealing HERO would not lead to a backlash, similar to what occurred in response to Indiana's RFRA law earlier this year, such as pulling the 2017 Super Bowl over what would be perceived as an anti-gay stance.

"Anytime you're high-profile and you take a stance on this issue you get attacked," Woodfill told the Chronicle. "But we appreciate the original donation and we believe, from his statement, that his opinion on the ordinance has not changed."

The pro-HERO group Houston Unites celebrated McNair's decision to rescind his donation. The anti-HERO side has been bolstered in recent weeks by monetary donations and controversial ads, like the one cut by former Houston Astros outfielder and first baseman Lance Berkman. Berkman, as a celebrity supporting the repeal of HERO, has invoked so-called "bathroom panic," based around the idea that transgender females using restrooms poses a threat to people, particularly cisgender women.

"Like Bob McNair, many Houstonians are taking a step back and realizing the oppositions ads on the Equal Rights Ordinance are intended to raise anxiety with outright distortions and lies," said Houston Unites spokesman Richard Carlbom. "When you take a second look, the Equal Rights Ordinance protects all Houstonians from discrimination and makes Houston a place everyone can be proud to call home."

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