Regardless of your political beliefs, I think it’s safe to say that we all agree that people deserve to be treated fairly. Regardless of what makes them who they are, each person deserves the right to be treated with kindness and respect.
Recently, the NCAA made this statement their own. In the wake of Indiana’s religious liberty law and North Carolina’s bathroom policy, the NCAA Board of Governors voted that NCAA Tournament host cities must now prove that they provide a discrimination-free environment before they can host any men’s or women’s basketball Final Fours. This move shouldn’t come as a surprise after the NCAA itself helped shape Indiana’s re-drafting of its law when protests called for the NCAA to move its headquarters out of the state if revisions weren’t made.
The NCAA’s decision came at its quarterly meeting in Indianapolis. In a statement to the press, Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chairman of the Board of Governors, said:
The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds…So it is important that we assure that community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”
This isn’t the first sports organization to stand against the Tar Heel State’s controversial stance. The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver gave a softer, initial stance that indicated the league would heavily consider moving its 2016 All-Star Weekend from the Charlotte Hornets’ arena. Calling the situation “problematic,” Silver told ESPN, “We’ve been working very closely with the business community down there and the governor and the legislature to make it clear that it would be problematic for us to move forward with our All-Star Game if there is not a change in the law.” Silver even indicated that this could eventually impact the status of the Hornets. While far from a confirmation, Silver and the league indicated that the state could lose the Hornets once again if the law remains status quo.
Again, regardless of your political and ideological beliefs, individuals deserve fair treatment in a safe environment. As is the case with any other basic human function like working and learning, no athlete can feasibly perform knowing that they are seen as anything less than an equal to a teammate, opponent or anyone else in the arena.
What could this mean for future cities looking to pass similar measures? That remains to be seen. However, it’s now becoming clear that these measures are almost assured to generate negative reverberations from athletic bodies to major companies and even fellow states. The financial impact of losing an All-Star Weekend or NCAA Tournament can prove devastating to local and state economies. With a major tourist boom, industries across host cities stand to lose millions in potential revenues with these measures in place.
With so much on the line, it’ll be intriguing to see if other states follow suit–and how states like North Carolina will react. If recent news proves indicative, this will get messier before we reach any clarity.