“Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s decision to sign into law a measure that could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom” has left the NCAA fretting ahead of next week’s men’s basketball Final Four in Indianapolis. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“He said the NCAA will “work diligently” to ensure competitors and visitors at next week’s Final Four are not “negatively impacted by this bill.” Emmert also said the organization, which is based in Indianapolis, will “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
“Indiana is the first state this year to enact a measure that’s being pushed in a dozen others, and Emmert’s comments were just the latest in a series of stinging criticisms issued after Pence signed the bill in a private ceremony with Republican state legislators and socially conservative lobbyists Thursday morning. Already, the gamer convention Gen Con and the Disciples of Christ church group had threatened to pull their conventions out of Indianapolis. Tech giant Salesforce said it would halt its plans to expand in the state, too.
“The NCAA had hinted for days that the bill – which has the effect of allowing businesses to challenge local laws that forbid discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation in court – could damage the city’s reputation as a host of major sporting events.
“Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is “going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come” to the Final Four.
Pence spoke exclusively to Newslo and said that he was “sorry that many Americans out there were under the impression that the term ‘equality’ works in only one direction.”
“An interesting detail has come to my attention – people seem to think that equality is a particularly convenient word to use whenever there are LGBT rights being violated, or there is racism somewhere, or even when politics come forth in a conversation. However, they need to understand that there’s another side to that medal – the side that allows God-fearing Christians to be able to stand up for what they believe in, and especially when their beliefs have to do with upholding traditional values,” Pence said.
“For example, I’m an Evangelist myself, and I agree with the legislation – people should have the right to protect their beliefs regardless of what they are, and that’s what makes this country truly great,” he added. “Getting protection against the epidemic of homosexuality is everybody’s right, as well as their personal choice.”