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NAACP asks athletes to boycott Texas over 'archaic' laws. It could work.

The civil rights organization issued an open letter asking free agents not to play in Texas amid a Republican-led attack on human rights in the state.

The NAACP on Thursday issued an open letter calling on professional athletes who are free agents to avoid signing with teams in Texas because of conservative attacks on voting rights, abortion access and public health measures in the state.

The two-page letter was addressed to players' unions from the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. 

In the letter, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, along with Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, said Texas has “passed archaic policies, disguised as laws, that directly violate privacy rights and a woman’s freedom to choose, restrict access to free and fair elections for Black and brown voters, and increase the risk of contracting coronavirus.”

“If you are a woman, avoid Texas,” they wrote. “If you are Black, avoid Texas. If you want to lower your chances of dying from coronavirus, avoid Texas.”

The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants battle at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 10.Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images file

The letter cited Texas’s new law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, new district maps that disempower Black and brown communities and Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent lawsuits over mask requirements as reasons why athletes should avoid the state.

“Texas lawmakers have destroyed the state’s moral compass by passing these laws,” the NAACP leaders wrote. “In return, we are asking you to seek employment with sports teams located in states that will protect, honor, and serve your families with integrity."

To athletes that decide not to avoid the state, the NAACP asked that they ensure “owners are upholding their responsibility of protecting you, the athlete and your family.” 

I’m hopeful athletes take heed, even if I’m skeptical free agents of today will turn down lucrative deals to join teams in Texas. And even with full knowledge that the sports world may not have the power to deter conservative Texans from their anti-democratic power grabs, I’d be lying if I said the prospect of an athlete boycott doesn’t intrigue me. 

It has, of course, been tried before: South Africa faced athlete boycotts and bans from global competitions from the 1960s through the 1990s due to apartheid.

And the parallel between the conditions that warranted a boycott then, and the conditions the NAACP is citing now, is clear. Like apartheid South Africa, the Texas Legislature is also trying to codify white, male rule for generations to come. 

The NAACP is hoping free agent athletes will play a role in stopping that. 

Read the NAACP’s letter here.

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