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Time to Move Major Sporting Events from Indiana

Time to Move Major Sporting Events from Indiana
Mike Zoller

It’s incredibly disturbing and ass-backwards that a column like this must be written in this day and age, but when the governor of Indiana signs a bill that could potentially allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community it seems you have little choice.

On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into a law that could protect businesses if they refused service to a specific group of people, stating it conflicted with their religious views. It should be clear that members of the LGBT community are not specifically mentioned in the bill, but at that point you’re just splitting hairs.

There has been a huge wave of outcry across the nation blasting Pence for signing this bill into a law. From celebrities to politicians, I can’t find someone who applauds Indiana for bringing us back to the 1950s. Many companies are stopping business and travel to Indiana to show their disgust. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted that the company is canceling all programs that required his employees to travel to Indiana. The city of San Francisco is not paying for any travel to Indiana, and I’m guessing they will be joined by other cities very soon.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in the sports world regarding the action taken Thursday. Indiana is a state full of rich sports traditions and hosts several of the largest sporting events annually. The NFL regularly hosts the Super Bowl and every year the NFL Combine is held in Indianapolis as well. Just this weekend, the NCAA will have the Final Four in Indianapolis, the Big Ten Conference hosts its football championship game at Lucas Oil Fieldhouse and the men’s and women’s basketball Big Ten tournament is consistently hosted at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and is scheduled to be there in 2016. The NCAA has its offices in Indianapolis, and of course you have several professional sports teams and a slew of universities call Indiana home.

While the NCAA and Big Ten Conference have already publicly shown their disappointment in the religious freedom bill, it will be their actions that speak louder than words. There is no way these large sporting events can continue to be held in Indiana.

We are at a very crucial time in the sports world where gay athletes are finally starting to be comfortable coming out to their teammates and the public. From Jason Collins to Michael Sam, these two have taken courageous steps to show other gay athletes its OK to come out and not play hiding who they really are. This bill could literally set things back decades.

Why would any gay athlete choose to play for the Colts, Pacers or Fever; or want to go to Notre Dame, Purdue, Indiana or Butler? If there’s a chance you can enter a business and not be served because of who you are, why even take the risk? One politician had a great idea that any business that chooses not to serve the LGBT community must make it publicly known. Something must be on their website and there must be a sign in the window. Let the public know so that we can boycott that business and let it go out of business on its own.

Many of these large sporting events scheduled to go to Indiana are coming up in the next year. However, with hard work and quick thinking the Big Ten can definitely move their football championship game and basketball tournaments out of the state. The NCAA, who so often is looked at as the enemy, has a chance to do the right thing and ban any postseason competition in the state. There’s precedent for this too. The NCAA refuses to host any postseason tournaments or competition in South Carolina because the state still uses the confederate flag.

At some point the NCAA does also need to consider moving its offices out of the state. While that may be a much bigger venture then moving a few tournaments, it’s important the organization shows Indiana it will not stand for this type of discrimination.

If only we could pick up the Brickyard brick by brick and move the Indy 500, but lets stay realistic here. I want to say we should boycott the Indy 500, but why punish people who have no control over the situation. Either way, I’d be curious to see what organizations like NASCAR and Stock Racing have to say about the religious freedom bill.

I’m worried for what’s next for Indiana. I’m not gay; however, I am Jewish. If a storeowner doesn’t like my religion can he refuse service to me? This isn’t the 1950s; we’re better than what is going on in Indiana.

No one should ever be refused service unless they don’t follow the two simple rules we’ve learned to follow since we were kids: No shirts. No shoes. No service.


  1. Andrew

    Why is it ok to punish the state for a government decision that is currently being reworked? Almost half the U.S. has a similar bill and so does the national government. Are we taking teams and events away from all the other states who have similar laws? This was primarily due to the recent Hobby Lobby case. I think just about everyone agrees the bill was poorly presented and needs some re writing, but way to jump on the band wagon.

    By the way, Indy has only hosted one super bowl, not regularly and religion is a nationally protected class so you’re fine. Suggesting that you could be included is just adding uneducated fuel to the fire.

    Maybe the conversation should be about making the LGBT community a protected class nationally instead of attacking a state for a law that is being fixed. If LGBTs were already a protected class none of this would have been an issue.

    • Mike

      The law in Indiana is far different than the law in other states. This article here can explain how different this bill is and why there is a greater opportunity for discrimination. – if you don’t like this article I can find 10 others that make the same point.

      Indy has hosted just one Super Bowl but they want more and have tried to get more. The combine is there every year and is still the home to many Big Ten championships.

      Suggesting that I could be included isn’t adding uneducated fuel to the fire – anyone could be included. The bill is that vague at this point. If a business owner’s religious views thought he should not serve a specific religion he would be protected from legal backlash.

      I agree it is terrible to punish the state for a government decision but that is what will happen in any case when you have a boycott. It hurts tourism because think of all the conferences, concerts and events that have already been canceled because of this bill. Yes there have been a handful and more to follow I’m sure.

      This is no bandwagon, this is a serious issue that is something we haven’t seen yet. It’s a situation where public outcry and action will hopefully remedy it.

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