Indiana ‘Religious freedom’ law could hit visitors to Final Four basketball

Indiana 'Religious freedom' law could hit visitors to Final Four basketball
Indiana 'Religious freedom' law could hit visitors to Final Four basketball

Indiana “religious freedom” law bound to punish Final Four’s most loving home.

An Indiana law enacted Thursday that could let businesses discriminate against gay couples has the U.S. national college basketball tournament organizers concerned ahead of next week’s “Final Four” in Indianapolis.

Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a religious freedom bill that would banish any laws that prevent people, clubs and businesses in the state from following their religious beliefs.

The law opens the door for Indiana business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples. Such possible discriminatory measures against gay visitors for next week’s men’s basketball semi-final games worry Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is also based in Indianapolis.

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” Emmert said in a statement on the organization’s website.

“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.”

The NCAA tournament, better known in America as “March Madness,” has been trimmed to the “Sweet 16” and games over the next four days will see the field reduced to the last four, who will gather for national semi-final games on April 4 with the final two nights later.

In addition to major conventions that might think twice about Indianapolis, the city also hosts the National Football League’s annual scouting combine for college talent and is a candidate to host future Super Bowls after staging the NFL’s 2012 championship spectacle.

Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, an outspoken gay rights advocate, said the league needs to re-evaluate its Indiana activity in the wake of the new law.

“If the NFL chooses to hold the Combine and Super Bowls in Indiana after the passage of SB 101, we know they don’t care about diversity,” Kluwe posted on Twitter.

He also cited a situation in which the NFL in 1990 gave Arizona host rights to the 1993 Super Bowl but removed them in 1991 after voters rejected recognizing the Martin Luther King Jnr holiday. The game was eventually played in Pasadena, California, and after Arizona voters backed the King holiday in 1992, the NFL in 1993 awarded them Super Bowl 30.

“The NFL made its position on diversity clear when it threatened to take away the Super Bowl from AZ. It needs to do the same in Indiana,” Kluwe tweeted, also suggesting the NFL threaten to remove the combine from Indianapolis.