Reprinted from thenation.com
As the world now knows, Indiana has become synonymous with the kinds of backward looking bigotry best remaindered in history's trashcan. The state's Governor Mike Pence has signed legislation under the guise of "religious freedom" that gives businesses the right to not serve someone if they believe them to be part of the LGBT community. The looseness of this law is frightening. Could a pharmacist refuse someone their HIV medication if they assumed they must have gotten the virus through gay relations? Could the owner of a restaurant, with a wink to his buddies, deny service to anyone with brown or black skin and just say, "You look gay to me"? And what happens to a gay couple that sits at--gee, I don't know--a lunch counter and is denied service? Will they be dragged away? At present there is an HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana so severe that Governor Pence has allowed needle exchanges to slow the spread of the disease. One hopes that the pharmacists and hospitals in that part of the state have a greater sense of humanity than the Indiana statehouse.
This law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, is outrageous. It also raises immediate questions for one of the biggest operations in the state: the NCAA. The Final Four, the NCAA's most lucrative shining moment, is being staged in Indianapolis next weekend, just miles from their $80 million headquarters. (Immediately after the legislation's passage, a petition online to get the NCAA to move, surfaced.) Already, NCAA President Mark Emmert has issued a strongly worded statement against RFRA.
"The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events," the statement read. "We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."
This has received fulsome praise from many in the sports world, including Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel in an article called "NCAA's response to Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' law is perfect." Wetzel wrote, "It's a good and bold threat by Emmert. This is the NCAA leading for a change." I agree with Wetzel that Emmert has correctly raised the stakes for Roger Goodell, Adam Silver and every sports commissioner that does business in Indiana to be heard. But I can't agree that it's perfect. Not even close.