NCAA’s Mark Emmert “Deeply Concerned” About Indiana Law

Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert joined Katz Korner on ESPNU, hosted by Andy Katz, to discuss Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration” law.

NCAA President Mark Emmert on Katz Korner:

On his interpretation of the law:

“I was deeply concerned about it, as were our members. The law itself has a lot of uncertainty and lacks clarity. But anything that could potentially allow for discrimination and works in a way that is inconsistent with our values for inclusion is something we are very very concerned about.”

On adjustments he would want legislatures to make to the law:

“I can’t speak to that; I am not a legislature or a lawyer. But I do know from my personal vantage point, and if you see post here you will be understand that we simply have to operate our events and conduct our affairs in an environment that reflects the core values of what higher education is about, what our university and college members care about. And that is an environment that celebrates diversity and provides for a very inclusive, supportive environment. Right now, we are not sure that we have that.”

On if the NCAA wants the law repealed or tweaked:

“Again, I am going to leave that up to legislatures. There is a lot debate going on in the state right now. I have say, what I have seen and what others have seen and heard over the past few days, hasn’t changed our level of concern. In many ways, it has just added more to the questions of what needs to occur here. It does clearly need to be addressed: whether that is a repeal or some language change that makes it self-evident there are not  discriminatory practices that can be condoned under this model is a decision they have to make, but they need to deal with it.”

On his conversation with Governor Pence:

“I’ve spoken to him (Governor Pence), I’ve spoken to the speaker of the house, I’ve spoken to the mayor. In each of those opportunities, I’ve expressed the concerns that we have both as an employer here in Indiana, but more importantly as a representative of all 1,100 of our college and university members about any environment that doesn’t allow us to pursue our core values, and that includes being very inclusive and very diverse. That’s something we hold near and dear and we’re going to make sure we can always do that. They’ve indicated their commitment to try to clarify that bill in the Speaker of the House’s words and the governor’s words. I and everyone else awaits that clarification. Right now we haven’t seen it. The mayor is being extremely supportive of the Association.”


On how much lobbying the NCAA did to prevent the law:

“We had expressed our displeasure with it and frankly I was really surprised it passed, that it was signed into law, which one can view here, especially as quickly as it occurred. There had been an anti-gay marriage law that was being debated last year, we opposed that and made sure everyone again understood that was inconsistent with the values of the NCAA. I thought, everybody thought, this would take a lot more deliberation  than occurred. We were all surprised and disappointed that this moved rapidly though the legislature.”

On impact this law could have on NCAA-related events being held in the state:

“We, the NCAA have to sit down and say ‘all right, if this environment remains the way it is, what does that mean for us going forward?’ We hold lots and lots of events here, we’re going to have our national convention is here, our offices are here. We have to say, ‘what do we do if this law goes into effect in July, and what’s our relationship with the state of Indiana going to be?’”

On how much time they would need to move an event, such as the 2016 Women’s Final Four, outside of Indianapolis:

“We’d have to consider it and discuss it. It’s something that we would do very very deliberately and thoughtfully. Again, you don’t want to, because of a political activity, disrupt an event that’s been in the making for so long that will change the experience for those student athletes. But if we have to look at this web-site and move events, we’ll do it, and we’ll do it in a way that provides student-athletes with everything they deserve and everything they’ve worked for, as well as the fans and their families and everyone else. But we can get that done in a way that works for everyone.”

On the real possibility that the NCAA could move its office and/or events outside of Indianapolis:  

“We need to understand fully what the bill is and isn’t. The Governor and legislature have indicated that they are going to modify it or clarify it. Others in the legislature are calling for its appeal. Before we get that far down the road, we have to get a feel for what it really means. Having said that, we are very serious about our core values. We want to make sure we operate in an environment that is supportive of those values. So this is a serious issue for us.”

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