HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The NAACP sent a letter to the players' associations in five professional sports Thursday asking players to reconsider signing with teams in Texas because of recent laws passed in the state.
In a two-page letter signed by NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson that was sent to the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA players' associations, the organization pointed to recent laws on abortions, voting rights and mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic as reasons to avoid joining teams in Texas.
"If you are considering signing in Texas, I ask you to ensure that owners are upholding their responsibility of protecting you, the athlete, and your family," the letter states. "I ask you to use your influence to help protect the constitutional rights of each individual at risk."
In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an abortion law that bans procedures after six weeks of pregnancy. In September, Abbott signed a bill that significantly tightened voting laws. Earlier in the month, Abbott also issued an executive order that banned vaccine requirements in Texas.
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"Over the past few months, legislators in Texas have 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," the letter says.
Gov. Abbott's office disagrees with the NAACP's letter.
"Here in Texas, one's rights and freedoms are always protected," said Press Secretary Renae Eze in a statement to ABC13. "Throughout his time in office, Governor Abbott has worked to protect and defend the rights of Texans, including the right to work.
The five leagues mentioned by the NAACP in the letter include nine Texas teams: the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers in MLB, the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs in the NBA, the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, the Dallas Stars in the NHL, and the Dallas Wings in the WNBA.
Dr. James Dixon, the president of the NAACP Houston Branch, said athletes have historically played a key role in creating social change, and mentioned Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson as examples. He hopes the letter from the NAACP leads to productive conversations between players, the leagues, government and more.
"Let's come to the table now and talk about how we can create a Texas that's more welcoming," said Dixon. "It's very important for our state. This is about improving Texas."
ESPN contributed to this report.