League urges 'inclusion' as Indiana law sparks gay rights concern

AFP
Under the revised format, if the NBA title series goes a full seven games it will end on June 19, with two rest days guaranteed any time the series shifts to a different city (AFP Photo/Doug Pensinger)

Under the revised format, if the NBA title series goes a full seven games it will end on June 19, with two rest days guaranteed any time the series shifts to a different city

Under the revised format, if the NBA title series goes a full seven games it will end on June 19, with two rest days guaranteed any time the series shifts to a different city (AFP Photo/Doug Pensinger)

Washington (AFP) - The NBA reaffirmed the league's commitment to diversity, after Indiana passed a law that activists fear allows discrimination against homosexuals in the state.

"The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect," the league said in a statement issued jointly with the Indiana Pacers and their WNBA sister club the Indiana Fever.

"We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere."

Supporters of gay rights united in outrage Friday after Indiana governor Mike Pence signed the law touted as a measure to protect religious freedom.

The law, which takes effect July 1, makes no mention of gays or lesbians, but activists say it effectively makes it legal for Indiana businesses whose owners reject homosexuality on religious grounds to turn away gay customers.

The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the law a "backlash" response to a failed bid last year to put a gay marriage ban in the state's constitution.

Pacers and Fever owner Herb Simon said his clubs are committed to "non-discrimination."

"Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be," he said.

The NBA isn't the only sports body to react to the new Indiana law.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will host next week's "Final Four" -- the semi-finals of the hugely popular collegiate basketball tournament dubbed "March Madness" -- in Indianapolis next week.

The powerful governing body of top-flight university sports is based in the city.

"Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce," NCAA president Mark Emmert said.

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