If you’re a fan of neither basketball nor equality, you won’t be interested in this post. But if you’re a fan of either, or like me, both, read on.
Dear Hoosier Legislature,
Thank you for passing your state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would, in its current form, allow Indiana businesses to refuse to serve LGBT citizens.
Thank you for doing so exactly when the nation’s sports mega-spotlight is trained on Indianapolis for the Final Four.
Thank you for bringing to the fore the moral fibre of folks known usually only for their defense patterns. Folks like the coach of defending national men’s basketball champion Connecticut, Kevin Ollie, who is boycotting the Final Four. Granted, Ollie was following the directive of Connecticut’s Governor Dan Malloy’s executive order banning state employees from traveling to Indiana on state money. But Ollie made it clear he was doing more than “caving” to his governor’s demand (as the Connecticut Post put it).
“In support of Governor Malloy’s travel ban to the state of Indiana, Kevin Ollie and other members of the UConn men’s basketball staff will not travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four and events surrounding it,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”
Given the expected attention to himself and his program at this year’s Final Four, Ollie’s boycott carries great weight.
Another unlikely hero: University of Southern California’s Athletic Director Pat Haden, who announced he will boycott a national football meeting in Indiana in honor of his son.
To quote the Washington Post,
Pat Haden, the athletic director at the University of Southern California, will skip a meeting of the College Football Playoff committee this week in Indiana because of the state’s recent passage of a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I am the proud father of a gay son,” Haden announced on Twitter. “In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity”
All this attention is now turning to pressure on Indiana to do the right thing. In fact, Governor Pence, who signed the law while insisting it was never intended to discriminate, is right now working with the Legislature to rewrite Indiana’s RFRA and–one can only hope–rein it in.
When my Mate used to teach Constitutional Law, he helped his students remember the acronym RFRA by referring to it as “the noise made by a small, angry dog.” There are a lot of small, angry dogs in our country, apparently: people who feel themselves persecuted because they don’t happen to be taking part in the great national shift toward tolerance of LGBT rights.
I, personally, am grateful to the Indiana Legislature for highlighting that small-mindedness on a national scale, and forcing even those who would prefer not to have to take a stand to do just that.