NCAA, Religion, and Politics Don’t Mix


Mar 16, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A wide angle view of the exterior of Lucas Oil Stadium which is the site of the 2015 NCAA Men

Saturday starts the final weekend of one of the best sporting events all year long: the NCAA Tournament. The Final Four doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning to Mississippi State fans this year, and the tournament hasn’t been relevant to our fans since the team made their last appearance after winning the SEC Tournament in 2009. But the Final Four is being played in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium this year, and the state of Indiana and Mississippi have something in common.

In 2001, the NCAA adopted a ban to grant predetermined host sites for postseason play to any state that has the Confederate Battle Flag on its state capital or is a part of its state flag. Right now, this applies to South Carolina and Mississippi. Mississippi State and Ole Miss can host baseball regionals because those are not predetermined sites. Those sites are awarded based on who earn the hosting site throughout the course of their season.  The Confederate Battle Flag provokes many emotions out of anyone who discusses it. There are some who believe the flag represents a cultural heritage when the south was great. Others think it is a symbol of hatred and represents the inhumane practice of slavery. Everyone has their opinion. Personally, I am of the latter of the two. Being white and conservative, this might come as a bit of a shock to some. That’s my opinion, but I don’t think you are a moron or idiot if you have a different one.

I bring all this up because the state of Indiana has recently passed a law that was signed by the governor of Indiana to protect the religious liberty of corporations and individuals. Supporters say it is a bold move to protect the religious freedom of those who have religious beliefs about homosexuality. Opponents say it is discrimination against gays and lesbians. The opponents of the law have been vocal about the NCAA putting in place a ban on those states with a law like Indiana’s law which is similar to the ban on states that still fly the Confederate Battle Flag.

I think they eventually will. The NCAA has already expressed their displeasure for the law, so I would imagine the ban will follow shortly. The intent of the law is to allow companies like florists and bakeries who provide services used frequently at weddings to refuse their services to gay or lesbian couples wanting to get married. Some are worried other businesses will use it as an excuse for any business to refuse service to any gay or lesbian couples for any reason, and there are others who don’t believe companies that provide services for weddings who have strict beliefs about marriage should be exempt. If the law does legalize discrimination, it should be done away with. There is no excuse for discrimination. So we have to ask has the law legalized discrimination? The answer isn’t as easy as people want to make it.

We don’t know.

The law has only recently passed. To be honest, I’m not even sure the law has gone into effect. We won’t know if the law is legalizing discrimination until someone makes that claim, the claim is investigated, and the state allows it. If that happens, then we will know for certain. If a business uses the law as a scapegoat to discriminate, the claim is investigated, and the state takes action against that business, then the law has done what it set out to do, protect religious freedom. And if a florist turns away a gay couple wanting to get married because of their religious convictions, and the state says the law applies, I’m sure people will be outraged. But why would a gay couple want to hire someone who does not support their marriage in the first place?

This is another example of how our society has become intolerant towards any opinion that is in conflict with our own. The NCAA is trying to use their position in American society to change the way a state conducts themselves. Gay marriage is going to eventually be legalized, there is no doubt in my mind about that. It still doesn’t change the fact there are deep religious beliefs about what a marriage should be. Those are not going to change simply because society is more accepting of homosexuality.

The real problem is our society has never had to put into practice the saying that we should “hate the sin and love the sinner” For centuries, homosexuality was considered a deviant practice. Now society believes it is perfectly normal. So while it was considered deviant, no one had to worry about how to go about loving a person they really didn’t know while hating what they did. Now we do. And we don’t know how to do it because we have never seen it.

Banning NCAA events at states with laws like this one will not solve the problem. The problem is tearing down age old stereotypes people with religious convictions have about homosexuality and age old stereotypes homosexuals have about people with those religious convictions. These bans only make people who support such laws and legislation dig in their heels. So if the NCAA feels they need to place bans like this, they will. But in doing so, they are just widening the divide between the two groups.