NCAA's response to Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' law is perfect

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday a Religious Freedom bill. (AP)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday a Religious Freedom bill. (AP)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says the "Religious Freedom" bill he signed into law Thursday isn't about turning back the clock to old-time bigotry where you could refuse service to blacks at restaurants, set up drinking fountains for whites only or post a job opening alongside a sign with NINA painted on it – No Irish Need Apply.

The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, responded with what most clear-minded people believe: that this law is about the state of Indiana protecting discrimination, effectively allowing businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. As such, Emmert, whose organization is hosting the Final Four next weekend in Indianapolis where the NCAA is also headquartered, went far enough to threaten future events in the state and potentially moving their offices out of downtown Indianapolis.

"The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement issued immediately after Pence signed the law. "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,” the statement continued. “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 tide has turned. The young and more enlightened are rising up, which is why laws like this won't last 10 years; maybe not even five. This is the last gasp of open discrimination.

Soon enough everyone supporting these ideals of discrimination will be incredibly humiliated they ever did so, the way old timers hang their heads when asked about how they thought a segregated lunch counter for third graders was a just idea. Most will pretend they didn't agree with it in the first place. Shame will cause everyone to run from it.

Let the NCAA's statement be the first of many.

NCAA Final Fours in Indianapolis? Not after next week.

The NCAA already refuses to stage national tournaments in South Carolina because the Confederate battle flag flies on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia. (Though the University of South Carolina was recently allowed to host a women's NCAA tournament game because it was a "non-predetermined" event.) So why not on this issue?

As for moving the NCAA national headquarters out of downtown Indianapolis, well that's more challenging, but it's a good and bold threat by Emmert.

This is the NCAA leading for a change.

The NFL should follow suit. Future Super Bowl consideration? Forget it. The league once banned Arizona from hosting the Super Bowl because at the time it wouldn't recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

(And yes, Arizona actually did this. See how ridiculous these things sound later on?)

The annual NFL combine, which is a major convention for downtown Indy? The league should find a new home, pronto.

How about you, Big Ten Conference, with your Indianapolis-staged football title game and basketball tournaments? There are plenty of places eager to host both. Go find one.

These sports leagues shouldn't stop there, however.

Mike Pence isn't even a creative, trend-setting bigot. He's just a dense follower. Indiana is the 20th state with some kind of similar law – the kind that would never be allowed against any other group of humans. It's long past time they answer for it too.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, left. (AP)
NCAA President Mark Emmert, left. (AP)

This is the era where civil rights victories for gays and lesbians are sweeping the country; next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to make legalized gay marriage the law of the land.

So use the momentum to right past wrongs. Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, wherever else you want to do this, it's true the rest of America may not be able to change the law – time and young people will do that for you.

National organizations such as the NCAA and NFL sure can say that if you're not willing to do business with all of our customers, then we'll go and do business where they will.

After all, the best counter to these religious freedom measures has come from an Oklahoma representative named Emily Virgin.

She introduced an amendment in her state that would require a business that will refuses service to certain individuals to "post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person's religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race."

Essentially, it tells everyone your intentions, who you are and what you are about. That way the gay couple looking for a florist knows not to go inside … and the rest of the public who think you're an idiot can go find another florist, too.

Then the religious freedom florist will cling to a dwindling customer base until it goes out of business.

In a sense, this is the same thing on a national level. Stand up and be counted. Let the NCAA and the NFL and the Big Ten and anyone else in sports explain whether this is something they want to support so the rest of us can decide whether to still support them.

Mike Pence signed his name to the bill, so we know on which side of history this guy wants to be on.

Mark Emmert has taken the first step to leading the charge on the other.

How about you Roger Goodell? How about you Jim Delany?

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