Sports | Men's basketball

Duke speaks out against Indiana religious freedom law with Final Four on horizon

With Duke headed to the Final Four this weekend, the University's eyes are on all things Indianapolis—including Indiana politics.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

The University issued a statement Monday on the state's new religious freedom law, which allows businesses to refuse services to anyone whose personal choices contradict the religious beliefs of the proprietor. Signed into law last week by Governor Mike Pence, the legislation has been widely criticized as anti-LGBTQ.

Duke's statement—issued by Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations—expresses concern about the effects of the law and reaffirms the University's solidarity with LGBTQ individuals. The statement follows a similar one made by the NCAA last week.

"Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination," the statement reads. "We share the NCAA’s concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.”

Several high-profile people in sports and media have spoken out against the law, with some calling for the NCAA to move the Final Four from Indiana, including former NBA star Charles Barkley. Former Indiana Pacers stand-out Reggie Miller criticized the law, as did Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player—asking Pence via Twitter if it would be legal for businesses to discriminate against him at the Final Four.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, released its statement on the law Thursday.

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. ”We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

The NCAA announced Final Four sites for 2017-2021 in November. Lucas Oil Stadium and Indianapolis were selected to host the event again in 2021.

The women's basketball Final Four will be held in Indianapolis in 2016, and a number of people have publicly called for it to be moved on account of the law, as well—including Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy and University of Connecticut athletic director, Warde Manuel. The UConn women's basketball team is a perennial favorite.



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