In a blistering 12-minute segment Monday, the gregarious Keith Olbermann called on all major sports organizations in Indiana to cut ties with the state until its controversial "religious freedom" law is no longer law. In particular, Olbermann echoed Charles Barkley’s comments from last week by saying that the NCAA should move its headquarters and the Final Four tournament out of the state.
“The Final Four must be moved out of Indianapolis, Indiana, and ... the National Collegiate Athletic Association must move its headquarters out of the same city,” Olbermann said.
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows individuals or business to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party, has come under fire from LGBT advocates since it was signed into law last week. While the law does not mention homosexuality explicitly, there are fears it could be used as a legal defense for discrimination.
Citing numerous instances throughout U.S. history, Olbermann said that sports organizations have an obligation to stand up in such moments and defend those who needed defending.
“There are times in the history of this country in which sports not only influences our destiny, but leads it, and this is such a time,” he said. “The ‘nation’ in the National Collegiate Athletic Association is this nation. Our nation. And there are times when organizations like the NCAA and NFL and NBA must remember that word and think not of its teams, but of its nation.”
By and large, sports organizations have issued statements condemning the law. The NCAA said it was “especially concerned” by the law, and the NBA said it would “ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events.” The NFL said it is in the process of “studying the law and its implications.”
But none of the organizations have said they would alter their business in such a dramatic way as Olbermann suggests. To not do so is to passively support the law they publicly condemn, Olbermann said.
“Your choice is this: Do you endorse in this Indiana law a revival of the kind of hared that opened the door for Jim Crow?” he asked. “Or do you repudiate it?”