University of Southern California athletics director Pat Haden took a firm stance against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act by announcing he will not attend the College Football Playoff selection committee meeting in Indianapolis.
I am the proud father of a gay son. In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity
— Pat Haden (@ADHadenUSC) March 31, 2015
Indiana governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on Thursday, and since then a major uproar around the country has engulfed the state, with many critics suggesting the measure will allow businesses to deny services and discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Pence held a press conference Tuesday, and called for changes to be made in the bill, but said he believes it does not promote discrimination.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to discriminate against anyone,” Pence told reporters.
Prior to meeting with reporters, Pence detailed the bill’s original intent in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. He wrote that the bill was supposed to protect citizens’ religious freedoms under the Affordable Care Act, more often called Obamacare.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, in an appearance Tuesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box," stated he will ask affiliated schools to consider the body’s presence and business within Indiana, where its main headquarters is located and this weekend's men's basketball Final Four will take place.
"This is an issue of extraordinary importance to all of us," Emmert said." The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis, and the men's March Madness Final Four basketball games are being staged in the city this weekend.
"Nothing is going to happen this weekend at the Final Four that we think is out of the ordinary," Emmert said. “But going forward "members of the NCAA have to stop and say, 'What relationship do we want with the state of Indiana.' We hold lots of events here."
Other top executives from the country's biggest sports are also coming out against the bill. NASCAR’s chief communications officer Brett Jewkes issued a statement Tuesday, condemning the law.
"NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race."
The measure will not take effect until July 1, but as the head of one of the most successful and heralded college athletics programs in the country, Haden’s voice holds a significant amount of weight.
However, not every member of the CFP committee has taken as strong a position.
"I certainly understand and respect Pat's position," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said to USA TODAY. "Everyone has the right to express their personal opinion and Pat, to his credit, has expressed his. As a father and also a human being, I respect him for that. I will also express my personal opinion: I think they need to fix this.
"But my focus is on sports. Other people who are more knowledgeable that I am are better positioned to address this matter. Our group's focus will remain on sports."