Several prominent, openly gay athletes will be among those protesting the new Indiana religious freedom law this week, despite Gov. Mike Pence’s promise to "fix" the law before the Final Four begins on Saturday, according to local activists.
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Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis and former NBA player Jason Collins are among those coming to the state this week for press conferences or other public events. The effort to keep attention on the law around the college basketball showcase in Indianapolis caps a week where sports figures, including the president of the NCAA, have helped drive the national debate over a law gay-rights group view as opening the door to legalized discrimination.
"It should be totally repealed," Louganis, now an activist for LGBT causes, said on the ESPN/ABC podcast "Capital Games." "Everybody should feel embraced. And I feel that the majority of the populace of Indiana do embrace all people. I felt very embraced. ... They've been so wonderful. This is just so contrary to my feelings of Indiana people."
In a press conference on Tuesday, Pence said the law was not meant to give anyone a right to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. He called for follow-up legislation that would clarify the measure, rather than the full repeal of the initial law Indiana Democrats and critics have demanded.
Rick Sutton, a veteran LGBT organizer and activist based in Indiana, said those who are upset by the new law plan to use the visibility surrounding the Final Four to continue to make their point.
"The drumbeat won't stop. Every day, companies, universities [and] professional and amateur athletes of all kinds are stepping forward to say that this kind of discrimination is wrong -- implied or actual." Sutton said. "We're going to keep the drumbeat up until the state fixes this. The governor and the legislator have got to fix this completely, and thoroughly and now."
The podcast also features an interview with NCAA president Mark Emmert, who expressed concern about the law’s impact on his Indianapolis-based organization.
"I'm anxiously awaiting whatever clarification that the legislature can bring forward to this bill so we can really know what it means and what it doesn't mean," Emmert told ESPN's Andy Katz. "As it becomes better understood, we're going to have to sit down and make judgments about whether or not it changes the environment for us doing our work and for us holding events."
"Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein" is a podcast program that explores the intersection of sports and politics, as part of the ESPN Perspectives audio series.