Oct 28 (Reuters) – Civil rights group the NAACP called on free agents in five major North American professional sports leagues not to sign contracts with Texas-based teams on Thursday, citing restrictions to voting and abortion rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the near-total ban on abortion in Texas, while Republican Governor Greg Abbott last month signed into law voting restrictions that critics said will make it harder for Black and Hispanic voters to cast ballots.
The NAACP cited those issues among its concerns in a letter sent to players associations in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League, Women’s National Basketball Association, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.
“As we watch an incomprehensible assault on basic human rights unfold in Texas, we are simultaneously witnessing a threat to constitutional guarantees for women, children and marginalized communities,” the NAACP said in the letter.
Abbott’s press office could not be reached for comment late on Thursday.
The governor has previously said the voting law was intended to combat voter fraud. The Texas anti-abortion law, which bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, was hailed as a victory for conservatives, who have long sought to eliminate abortion access in the United States.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said he was calling on athletes to protect “democratic values.”
“Professional athletes serve as some of our country’s greatest role models and we need them to join us to fight for democracy,” he said.
Earlier this year, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred moved the All-Star Game and amateur player draft out of Atlanta in protest over Georgia’s new voting restrictions. (Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Peter Rutherford )