(Note: The opinions reflected in this piece reflect only the opinions of its author....but any other OTE staff member can feel free to publicly adopt them as their own in the comments below).
If you want to be a leader or legend, Jim Delany, it's time for the B1G to step up to the plate, and boycott Indiana as a championship site.
This morning, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a measure that allows businesses in Indiana to deny service to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the name of "religious freedom." In other words, for the first time in almost 60 years, private businesses in commerce in one of the United States can lawfully discriminate in who they serve and to whom they sell products. Indiana basically decided "you know what? That whole Jim Crow thing? Not a bad idea....we always wanted to be mindless bigots on the wrong side of history."
Well, revenge is fair game, Jim Delany. It's time the B1G stop doing business with the whole damn state of Indiana (to the extent reasonably possible -- we're not cancelling games at Indiana/Purdue, nor should we, since this dumb law is not their fault). The 2015 B1G Football Championship? Move it immediately to Chicago, or Detroit, or Minneapolis, or Cleveland, or anywhere but Indiana. The 2016 B1G Men's and Women's Basketball Championships? Get them the hell out of Indianapolis. The 2015 B1G men's and women's golf championships and the B1G women's rowing championships coming up in April in Indiana? Find a course/river/lake somewhere else in the B1G footprint....I'm sure we have plenty available.
We won't be alone, Jim. Already GenCon, one of the largest gaming conventions in the nation with 56,000 participants and nearly $50 million of economic activity, is pulling out of its long time home in Indianapolis to protest this law. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is also threatening to cancel its convention in Indianapolis in response to the law. And tech giant Salesforce has threatened to abandon the state and its expansion plans in Indiana if the law goes into effect.
Jim, the B1G is a huge business entity comprised of some of the best universities on the planet -- universities of open communication, diversity, and yes, tolerance and respect for LGBT individuals. Many of the athletes and coaches on B1G teams identify (publicly or privately) as LGBT, or are allies/friends/family members of LGBT individuals. The B1G has thousands of LGBT alumni and fans. Their voices deserve to be heard and respected; their dollars should not have to be spent in a state that votes for being bigoted and ignorant.
Thanks to the Indiana legislature and Governor Pence, those same LGBT players, coaches, alumni, and fans and their allies might find themselves unable to eat in certain restaurants or stay in certain hotels in the state of Indiana if they choose to travel there to support their team. Do you really want your fans staying at home and not supporting their team in a B1G championship game played in Indiana because they don't want to be treated like 1950s-1960s Jackie Robinson? Oh, and while you're at it, call up the NCAA and tell them to cancel future Final Fours in Indianapolis, too.
As for the OTE community, we have a role to play here too. We're alumni/fans/paying customers of the B1G and it's member universities. We need to make ourselves heard on this issue. Call or email your school's president,athletic director, and coaches and demand that THEY put pressure on the conference to pull all B1G Championships out of Indiana until this law is repealed. Refuse to travel to Indiana for road games (sorry Purdue and Indiana....we know this is not your fault). Be leaders and legends on the right side of history, even is something so small as sports. I know I'll be emailing Northwestern President Morton Shapiro and AD Jim Phillips and urging them to push the B1G to pull its championships from Indiana unless and until the law is repealed.
This is a sports site, you might say. We're interested in football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, wrestling, etc. you might say. And that's fine....we understand that, and we will always cover sports here. But when our conference's considerable resources and fanbases are involved, we need to make sure they're not being spent bringing financial riches upon a state that would sanction discrimination against our fellow fans, players, and coaches. And we can effect change -- you better believe a lot of angry Hoosiers, Boilermakers, and business owners might get on the phone to the governor and their state legislators and demand a repeal of this bigoted law if it threatened their wallets and their ability to see the B1G Basketball Championship in downtown Indianapolis.
You've got a choice, Jim Delany....and from my view, it's an easy one. Stand with the B1G's LGBT players, coaches, alumni, fans, and their allies and pull out of Indiana. Money talks, and B1G money should speak out against such bigotry.