Mac Engel

Sports leagues should rise against Indiana’s discriminatory law

The NCAA — headquartered in Indianapolis, site of the Final Four — is keeping an eye on an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate. The law goes into effect in July.
The NCAA — headquartered in Indianapolis, site of the Final Four — is keeping an eye on an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate. The law goes into effect in July. AP

In what is seemingly a mathematical impossibility, another state has wrestled away the “Mind Numbingly Dumbest Legislation Ever” trophy from the Great State a Texas.

Drop the mic, Indiana. You win. Well played. We bow to your “superiority” in this matter.

Some people may not like their sports to intersect with politics or culture, but in the case of Indiana’s recent open door to discrimination, now would be an ideal time for basketball, football, hockey, baseball and everything else to intercede.

In case you have not heard, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a law that, at its core, can give a big thumbs up to discrimination. That’s right, it’s 2015 and discrimination is still cool.

I was raised in Indianapolis, and politically I exercise my right to be a blue/red cynic toward these grandstanding, self-serving boobs who disguise public service as a means for four more years to a great lifestyle. But this latest move makes me ashamed of the place I once called home.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an adorable Founding Fathers-type of title over a Jim Crow-style act that should never have been conceived let alone passed by an elected official.

The NCAA’s Final Four begins Saturday in Indianapolis. It would be a good time for that organization to put pressure on a government that gave it millions to relocate from Overland Park, Kan., to Indy in 1999.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, so far, has said he is disappointed and will keep an eye on the bill, which takes effect July 1. That’s a nice first step, Mark. Take away a Final Four and see what happens.

Whatever the Indiana governor does on this one, there is no way around the reality that this bill — however subtle — approves inequity, which is the opposite of what the NCAA is built upon.

If a business owner wants to deny service to a gay person, a black person or an obnoxious sports columnist, they could, citing their religious beliefs.

If it walks like racism and quacks like hate, it’s probably discrimination.

This law is deliberately so vague that it can be translated in myriad ways, good and evil.

Nineteen states have religious freedom laws modeled after the federal one signed by — for you lefties out there — President Bill Clinton in 1993. But Indiana’s has two provisions that go much further.

This law is really more about gay marriage, which ... my God, imagine if gay people got married. They might adopt children. They may have happy lives. Or they might have affairs. They might get divorced. Or they might do everything else every other “normal” married couple does.

Sports, do something.

Sports, do something other than cash our checks.

Sports, drive down the road and intersect with society and politics.

It is not fair that a societal issue should have to be addressed by a sports league, but with great power (i.e. money) comes great responsibility.

Normally, the relationship between big-time sports organizations and governments is a one-way street. The league pressures politicians for one-sided stadium or office deals and then promptly shuts up.

Leagues wield enormous power and leverage in these relationships because they know the fan trumps the tax-paying constituent every day.

The NCAA can threaten Indiana, which it has by saying it may no longer hold events there, but more pressure has to come from NFL boss Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and possibly MLB leader Rob Manfred.

Indianapolis has two major league sports franchises — the Colts and Pacers — and the Triple A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indians. All three of these teams have enjoyed one-sided deals for stadium contracts that put millions in their bank accounts.

Just because they received money, however, should not preclude the leaders of these organizations from speaking out against a government that they all exploited for their personal gain.

Local business leaders can speak out, in unison, with Colts owner Jim Irsay and Pacers owner Herb Simon against a law that ostensibly protects our right to pursue whatever religion but in practice creates a shield to treat another human being like a piece of garbage.

With enough bad PR, Pence and the rest of his myopic cronies who are bowing to the pressure of a few will change their minds.

I will always love Indiana, but I am ashamed right now. Every home has deep flaws and sometimes it takes another to point them out so they are corrected.

Sports has the power to do good beyond entertain — Jackie Robinson comes to mind — and now would be an ideal time to exercise that considerable power again.

It is 2015, and by now we should realize we’re all the same, just in a different package.

It is 2015, and — no — discrimination is not cool.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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