NCAA president Mark Emmert, whose organization is based in Indianapolis and will showcase one of its signature sporting events there this weekend, said Monday that a new Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians might jeopardize the NCAA’s relationship with the state.
“For us personally in the NCAA, this is a big deal. We’re proud of our inclusive environment in our office,” said Emmert in an interview with Andy Katz on ESPNU. “We’re proud of the environment we’ve created and we don’t want to lose that, and we don’t want it put at risk.”
The law, signed by Gov. Mark Pence last Thursday, is scheduled to go into effect in July. It would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people—including businesses and associations—to follow their religious beliefs.
As Indianapolis is in the national spotlight this week as the Division I men’s basketball Final Four plays out, Indiana’s Republican legislative leaders said Monday they’re working on the law’s language to make it clear that it doesn’t allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Businesses and organizations have canceled future travel to Indiana or put off expansion plans. A social media campaign, hashtag #boycottindiana, has gained momentum.
The LGBT Sports Coalition has called for the NCAA, the Big Ten, the NFL, USA Diving and USA Gymnastics to pull scheduled events from Indianapolis.
“We simply have to operate our events and conduct our affairs in an environment that reflects the core values of what higher education is about,” Emmert told ESPN. “And that’s for an environment that celebrates diversity and provides for a very inclusive, supportive environment.”