Final Four Coaches Back NCAA on RFRA

Coach K

On Monday, the four men’s Final Four coaches, John Calipari of the University of Kentucky, Tom Izzo of Michigan State University, Bo Ryan of the University of Wisconsin, and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University, released a joint statement regarding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The statement read:

We are aware of the recent actions in Indiana and have made a point to talk about this sensitive and important issue among ourselves and with our teams. Each of us strongly supports the positions of the NCAA and our respective institutions on this matter – that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. As a part of America’s higher education system, college basketball plays an important role in diversity, equality, fairness and inclusion, and will continue to do so in the future.

The NCAA, pleased with the coaches’ decision to fall in line, asserted that the coaches unanimously agreed with the NCAA, which had issued a threat to the state of Indiana after the bill was passed. The NCAA had stated, “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.”

Krzyzewski, who had initially refused to comment on the law last Tuesday when questioned by reporters, apparently decided to go public with the other coaches. Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, who champions gay rights, had blasted Krzyzewski for his reticence on CNN, saying that “ if you are a superstar athlete or a superstar head coach, it is your obligation to be aware of these issues because you will be asked about them and you do have a platform to talk about these things and you should knowledgeable about it because that is the world you live in. That is your society.”

Indiana’s law had come under fire from LGBT supporters, who claimed it would allow businesses to discriminate against gays. The bill simply states, “a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The RFRA protects religious business owners from antidiscrimination laws, thus protecting them from those who would sue them because they refused service for events that conflicted with their beliefs.

The Final Four starts on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The state of Kentucky, represented by the University of Kentucky, has its own version of the RFRA on the books.