INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 1, 2015) -- There is growing urgency to make sure Indianapolis and the state of Indiana remain places for big sporting events to be held. Top officials with the NCAA have expressed strong concerns that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed in to law last week, could invite discrimination. That could mean they look elsewhere for big sporting events.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says even if a bill to clarify the law is adopted soon, substantial time and money would have to be spent to convince stakeholders that our state and city is welcoming. If that doesn't happen, things could continue to get worse.
As the city prepares to host the men's Final Four basketball games, fans are already in town. Hoosiers are noticing and welcoming them.
"We're on a walk today, we like to see all of the tourists out here and just to see what's going on downtown and stuff. So, for sure we want people to be here," said Brittany Staley.
Staley and her friend Emily Radecki hope people do keep coming here because there's a very real fear that they won't. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has scared a lot of people. They fear it's opening the door for discrimination. Repeatedly, Governor Mike Pence, who signed the bill last Thursday, says it won't. Radecki says folks shouldn't be scared.
"We have this publicity all of a sudden and it's kinda bad," Radecki said. "It's just kind of embarrassing to be grouped in one group. We're all different, we have different beliefs."
Mayor Ballard is especially concerned about the potential worsening affects the law would have on Indiana's prized sporting and hospitality industries if, he says, state lawmakers does not take action.
"We have 70,000 people, you can expect to see a lot of that go away, lot of those jobs go away. Probably see some restaurants close, probably see some hotels struggling," Ballard said.
Mark Miles, who was the leader in the efforts to bring the Pan Am Games to Indianapolis in 1987 as well the Super Bowl in 2012 is especially concerned. He talked with House Speaker Brian Bosma this week.
"Essentially what he already knew. I think he's had his finger on the pulse since I first saw him...that this has to be repaired. This is serious," Miles said.