Despite 19 states with similar laws, universities, NCAA outraged over Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom’ bill
In response to Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence (R) signing a law that would protect private businesses from the government placing substantial burdens on them because of their religious beliefs, San Francisco State University has decided to boycott the state—potentially starting a snowball of problems for not only the state, but the NCAA as well.
According to a statement released on Monday, SFSUs President Leslie Wong proclaimed that the school has banned university-funded travel to Indiana, saying that it’s “unconscionable” for the school to “spend its resources in a state that attempts to legislate discrimination of any kind.”
“By this note, I am informing the campus community that no San Francisco State University funds from any source—general funds or auxiliary—will be used to support employee or student travel to Indiana,” the statement, provided to Campus Reform, said.
With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship set to be held in Indianapolis on April 6, the NCAA President Mark Emmert has vocalized his own concern over Indiana’s legislation that says the government cannot “ substantially burden” a person because of their religious beliefs.
Emmert has said that the NCAA is “surprised and disappointed” in the law and that the organization is waiting to see if it is repealed or changed before it’s implemented.
"I'm anxiously awaiting whatever clarification that the legislature can bring forward to this bill so we can really know what it means and what it doesn't mean," Emmert told ESPN. "As it becomes better understood, we're going to have to sit down and make judgments about whether or not it changes the environment for us doing our work and for us holding events."
The NCAA’s concern over the language of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which many critics decry as an anti-gay law despite no mention of such issues in the actual legislation, could cause programming problems as many sporting events are set to be held in the Hoosier state.
According to ESPN, the Big Ten is contracted to host its conference football championship in the state until 2021. It will also hold its men’s basketball conference tournament in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2022.
The men’s Final Four isn’t scheduled to be held in Indianapolis again until 2021, but the women’s Final Four will be there next year.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered up his state as a possible location for the Final Four, if the NCAA were to move it. Ironically, Schumer sponsored the federal version of the RFRA, signed by then-President Bill Clinton, as a congressman in 1993.
Where the NCAA March Madness tournament is held doesn’t directly affect SFSU—at least not in the time being—but the school’s travel ban still affects the NCAA. Wong was supposed to attend a mandatory meeting of the NCAA Division II President’s Council in April in Indianapolis. In his statement, Wong said he already notified Emmert of his decision to no longer attend.
“Our commitment to social justice on this campus remains a point of pride for me,” Wong said. “The vice presidents, deans and Academic Senate’s Executive Committee all endorse this action.”
SFSU isn’t alone as a university in its condemnation of the law. According to Inside Higher Ed, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, Butler University President James Danko, and DePauw University President Brian Casey have all issued statements criticizing the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
On Monday, Purdue University followed suit with its own statement.
“While a longstanding Board of Trustees policy precludes Purdue taking institutional positions on matters such as the current controversy, we wish to take this opportunity to affirm our unwavering commitment to our principles and our opposition to any governmental measure that would interfere with their practice on our campuses,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ office said in a statement.
However, Indiana isn’t the only state with legislation like the RFRA. There are 19 other states with similar pieces of legislation. The Washington Post noted that there didn’t seem to be any concern from the NCAA over basketball games recently played in Kentucky, one of those states.
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