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Business Leaders Warn Against Economic Fallout From Anti-LGBT Legislation

Tony Webster

Tennessee could be off the table for future NFL, NCAA and FIFA competitions because of the state’s new transgender sports law.

While the groups haven’t come out officially to say they won’t be choosing Tennessee for future contests like the World Cup or the Super Bowl, they have indicated they are against legislation that bans trans kids from playing sports.

Joe Woolley of the LGBT Chamber says this would not be the first time Tennessee lost business because of similar legislation. He points to the more than 14 conventions that were canceled after the passage of an anti-LGBT adoption law last year.

He says Nashville in particular will suffer the brunt of the economic consequences if state lawmakers pass the legislation.

“Nashville is going to feel it first and it’s going to feel it the hardest,” Woolley says. “Forty percent of the tourism economy is generated here in Nashville, Tennessee.”

More than 130 Tennessee businesses signed on to the 2021 open letter of businesses against discrimination. New signers include BMG, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Lyft, Ryman Hospitality Properties and more.

Business leaders from Amazon and Dell have also come out against the legislation, but they have declined to say if they would take concrete steps like pulling their business or funding from the state.

“Every notable economist will tell you this, on a bipartisan basis: Diversity, inclusion and acceptance is the future of business,” Woolley says.

Paige Pfleger covers criminal justice for WPLN News. Previously she has worked in Central Ohio at WOSU News, covering criminal justice and the addiction crisis, and was named Ohio's reporter of the year by the Associated Press in 2019. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR, The Washington Post, Marketplace, and PRI's The World, and she has worked in the newsrooms of The Tennessean, Michigan Radio, WHYY, Vox and NPR headquarters in DC.
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