NCAA, Indy sports world speak out about RFRA


Indianapolis' sports world is speaking out following the Indiana Legislature's passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

"Indianapolis is a preferred partner in heavy rotation for a lot of NCAA championships," said Larry DeGaris, a UIndy sports marketing expert.

He said the NCAA could change that as plenty of other cities would love the Final Four.

And losing the games would not just mean lost tourist dollars downtown. He said NCAA playoffs bring business-to-business relationships that can become highly lucrative deals.

In an interview with NBC, NCAA President Mark Emmert called the law disturbing and disheartening.

He also indicated that it could impact the future of big-time college events Indiana.

"I and the Board of Governors who oversee the NCAA need to sit down and talk about what does this really mean? What are the real implications and what does that mean for the many events that we host here?," Emmert asked. "It's not just the final four. We do many things here and of course it's our home state for the national office. So we're gonna have to evaluate what that means and how we want to engage with the state going forward."

Three of four Final Four teams traveling to Indianapolis this week have also released statements regarding the controversial legislation.

Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon said: "While there has been much discussion about the new law passed in Indiana, we hope the citizens and lawmakers of that state can reach a consensus on how to best welcome all people, regardless of background. Here at MSU, we are guided by values embedded in our rich heritage as a leading land-grant university. Inclusion is foremost among our values - treating all members of the community with fairness and dignity."

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank: "Diversity and inclusion of all people are core principles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act mirrors laws in place in a number of states and at the federal level. But I take the concerns that have been raised very seriously. I look forward to a discussion with my Big Ten counterpart presidents and chancellors about the impact of the Indiana law."

Duke University: "Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination. We share the NCAA's concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect."

Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay also added his voice to mix, tweeting Monday, "The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base. We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation. ONE FAMILY!"

The Indiana Pacers and Fever also released a joint statement, saying they "will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome."

The Mid-American Conference, of which Ball State University is a member, is also cutting ties with the state, pending a resolution of RFRA.

"The Mid-American Conference will not schedule any more meetings or championships in Indiana until this current matter is brought to a sensible and appropriate conclusion," said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.

Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR released the following statement, "NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race."

See more stories about the RFRA.