The coaches participating in this year’s NCAA college basketball Final Four playoffs released a joint statement Wednesday slamming the controversial “religious freedom” law recently passed in Indiana, the state hosting the games.
“We are aware of the recent actions in Indiana and have made a point to talk about this sensitive and important issue among ourselves and with our teams. Each of us strongly supports the positions of the NCAA and our respective institutions on this matter — that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. As a part of America’s higher education system, college basketball plays an important role in diversity, equality, fairness and inclusion, and will continue to do so in the future,” their statement read.
The remarks have come amid increasing pressure from pundits and former players on the NCAA to consider relocating the games scheduled to be played in Indianapolis this coming weekend. Although the NCAA, which is based in Indiana, came out early to express their concern about the legislation — which in its current form allows businesses to not serve customers who offend their religious beliefs — there have been no official plans to change the location of the games.
Ex-NBA player and current TV basketball analyst Charles Barkley called out the NCAA late last week in a statement published by USA Today. “Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me. As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.” Barkley has long been one of the most outspoken former professional athletes in defense of LGBT rights.
And he is not alone. Besides former NBA stars, the WNBA, NASCAR and numerous other major corporate entities have condemned the Indiana law and a similar one that could be signed in Arkansas. Still, sports writer LZ Granderson has argued that for all the bluster of the business community, very little action has been taken on the ground in Indiana to challenge the polarizing legislation.
In a column for ESPN, he points out that the NFL still held their annual scouting combine in Indiana and the NCAA still has several major championship games scheduled in the state over the next several years.
“What we’re seeing now are strongly worded statements in response to the public outcry and not the law itself because, quite frankly, they all knew it was coming down the pipeline,” Granderson writes. “If Indiana’s sanctioned discrimination was such an affront to the values of the NBA, NFL and NCAA, why is it that Angie’s List is the first with any real skin in the game?” The Indiana-based company halted plans to spend $40 million to expand their headquarters in the state in the aftermath of the “religious freedom” bill brouhaha.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Mike Pence has remained steadfast in his support for the bill he signed into law last week. At a press conference on Tuesday, the governor said, “This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate.”