Indiana and its governor, Mike Pence, have been having a really bad week so far. The governor recently signed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that many people believe will allow businesses to stop serving customers due to their sexual orientation. While the governor and his supporters are claiming that the act is similar to the one that President Clinton signed into law, the wording is significantly different enough that it would allow discrimination on many fronts against many groups, though the fear is only for homosexuals. While there are many forces putting pressure on Governor Pence to change the law so no discrimination could happen, the strongest and most effective lobbying might end up coming from sports teams and organizations.
A number of governors have officially forbid their state employees from traveling to Indiana for unimportant business on the taxpayers dime. What does this have to do with sports? It means that the coaches supporting staff for the UConn basketball team can’t travel to Indiana for the Final Four, which UConn is part of. This is only the beginning of sports organizations exerting pressure on the government to change and afford equal rights and protection to everyone. Already the NCAA and the Big Ten conference have stated that they are going to reconsider their relationship with the state after the law was passed. Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, has stated that the organization is going to re examine if it would continue to hold events in its headquarters which are located in the state. Along with the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference has also stated that it is concerned with the ruling. While it hasn’t been as explicit as the NCAA, it still has Indiana officials worried about the pulling of the Big Ten’s football championship and basketball tournament out of the state.
These college sports organizations aren’t the only ones that are reacting negatively to the law. NASCAR has already released a statement speaking against the ruling, surprising basically everyone. GenCon, the largest gaming convention in the world, has also pulled out of hosting any events in Indianapolis even though the event to be held there is literally called GenCon Indy due to its massive success and growing popularity every year. With so much money on the line (the Final Four usually brings in around $71 million a year by itself), these sports organizations are adding a lot of weight to the already significant weight coming from activists and companies around the country. Only time will tell what happens, but this might be the final push in reversing this terrible law.
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