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John Mara conflicted over holding NFL meetings in Charlotte

New York Giants president and CEO John

New York Giants president and CEO John Mara speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Giants president and co-owner John Mara has mixed feelings about the NFL’s decision not to change the location of next month’s owners meetings in Charlotte after the recent passage of a controversial law in North Carolina. But in the end, Mara suggests the league can send a message of its own about a law that LGBT advocates consider discriminatory and that has led several businesses to cut ties to the state.

“I personally find this law to be offensive, but I think at this point, to change the [location of the] meetings, I’m not sure what kind of effect that would have.” Mara said Wednesday at MetLife Stadium, where he and Jets owner Woody Johnson announced the news that Paul McCartney would be performing at the stadium in August. “We’ve made some pretty strong statements, both as a league and as an organization, on this subject.”

North Carolina lawmakers in late March passed a law, signed by Gov. Patrick McCrory, that mandates people use public bathrooms or changing facilities based on the “biological sex” stated on their birth certificate. Called House Bill 2, or HB2, the law has been widely criticized as discriminatory by LGBT advocates, and several corporations and government agencies in recent days have stated plans to either reduce their financial relationships with the state or refrain from doing business altogether. Musician Bruce Springsteen canceled a Sunday concert date in Greensboro to protest the new law.

The NFL said in a statement earlier this month that it would not change the venue for the owners meetings, scheduled for May 23-25 at a hotel in Charlotte, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

“We embrace diversity and inclusiveness in all of our policies,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “The Panthers have made clear their position of non-discrimination and respect for all their fans. The city of Charlotte also has made clear its position. The meeting will take place in the city of Charlotte.”

Mara said the league’s decision to keep the meetings in Charlotte might wind up sending an equally strong message than if the NFL had decided to move them elsewhere.

“I have mixed feelings about going down there, but I’m not sure that moving the meeting elsewhere is necessarily the right thing to do,” he said. “It may be more effective to take the message of inclusion and equality to Charlotte.”

The Giants were one of several teams to express support for the LGBT community after former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam two years ago became the first openly gay player to enter the NFL draft. Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch voiced support for Sam when he announced in February 2014 he is gay. Sam was drafted in May by the Rams but was released after training camp. He was signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad but was released midway through the season and has not played in an NFL regular-season game.

“Our sport, our game, is the ultimate meritocracy,” Mara said after Sam publicly announced his sexual orientation. “You earn your way with your ability. Regardless of who you are, what your background is, and what your personal or sexual orientation is, if you can play, you can play.”

Said Tisch: “Our game is the ultimate team game, and we often talk about how a team is a family. Regardless of where you are from, what your religious beliefs are, what your sexual orientation is, if you are good enough to be on the team, you are part of the family.”

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