Michael Sam, Former Employer Hit Lobbyist Trying To Ban Gays In NFL

February 26, 2014 7:26 a.m.

Jack Burkman, the lobbyist who claims to have congressional sponsors for a bill banning gay players from the National Football League, attracted a lot of negative attention Tuesday for his efforts — most notably from openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam.

Sam kept his response classy with a reference to the movie “Back To The Future:”

Burkman’s former lobbying firm, Holland & Knight, also denounced its former associate Tuesday in a statement.

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“Holland & Knight is proud of its support of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community and we condemn Jack Burkman’s current efforts,” senior communications manager Linda G. Butler said in a statement, as quoted by The Hill.

That negative feedback may be Burkman’s endgame. His brother Jim, who is gay, told the Huffington Post that he believes the bill is “an attention grab and a media grab to pander to those folks who pay him to lobby on their behalf.”

And it’s hard to think Burkman could secure votes for this kind of bill — he hasn’t named any of the supposed sponsors — at a moment where anti-LGBT advocates seem to be on the defensive on multiple fronts. Sam is already getting the best of the debate about gay players in professional sports: the barrier broke Sunday night as Jason Collins drew an ovation at his debut for the Brooklyn Nets, almost a year after his own coming out.

The business community is also sensing the changing tide. Companies that do business in Arizona are turning against a bill that would allow discrimination against LGBT individuals on the basis of religious freedom, and even the NFL is monitoring the situation since the next Super Bowl is slated to be held in Phoenix. Several GOP state lawmakers that voted for the legislation have since expressed regret for their decision, and both of Arizona’s Republican U.S. senators have urged Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto it.

This post has been updated.

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