Tags: Religion | Charles Barkley | Reggie Miller | Final Four | Indiana | Religious Freedom Act | Gov. Pence

Charles Barkley: Final Four Should Not Be Played in Indiana

By    |   Tuesday, 31 Mar 2015 08:18 PM

The NCAA men's basketball championships scheduled for April 4 and 6 should not be played in Indiana because of that state's Religious Freedom Act, said former NBA power forward Charles Barkley, a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The law gives businesses the right to refuse service by citing their religious beliefs. It was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence last week, and has sparked a firestorm of controversy.

"Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me," Barkley said in a statement, according to USA Today. "As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states' cities."

The NCAA, which regulates college athletics, is headquartered in Indianapolis, while the upcoming NCAA semifinals and final will be played there as well.

Former NBA player Reggie Miller, a precision 3-point shooter who spent his entire career with the Indiana Pacers and who, like Barkley, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and now works as a TV analyst, also expressed his disagreement with the law.

He did not, however, call for the NCAA to move the Final Four games out of the state.



NCAA President Mark Emmert reacted to the law, saying the organization is "concerned."

"We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees," Emmert said. "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 work force."

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Monday, Pence wrote that the law "ensures that Indiana law will respect religious freedom and apply the highest level of scrutiny to any state or local governmental action that infringes on people's religious liberty.

"Some express concern that Indiana's RFRA law would lead to discrimination, but RFRA only provides a mechanism to address claims, not a license for private parties to deny services. Even a claim involving private individuals under RFRA must show that one's religious beliefs were 'substantially burdened' and not in service to a broader government interest — which preventing discrimination certainly is. The government has the explicit power under the law to step in and defend such interests."

The strong backlash was not expected, and on Tuesday Pence said he would fix the law to make its intention more clear.

"It would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," Pence said. "We'll fix this and we'll move forward."

The public outcry did not stop lawmakers in Arkansas from passing a similar law on Tuesday, and the bill now awaits Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's signature. Hutchinson has vowed to sign the bill into law.

Pence, meanwhile, is a potential Republican candidate for president in next year's race.

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The NCAA men's basketball championships scheduled for April 4 and 6 should not be played in Indiana because of that state's Religious Freedom Act, said former NBA power forward Charles Barkley, a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Final Four, Indiana, Religious Freedom Act, Gov. Pence, Arkansas
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2015-18-31
Tuesday, 31 Mar 2015 08:18 PM
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