NFL joins chorus concerned over Indiana Religious Freedom bill

The NCAA is also concerned about the law's implications.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: The NFL joined the chorus of businesses and organizations expressing concern about the Religious Freedom bill signed by Indiana's governor this week.

Indystar.com reported Friday afternoon that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment except to say the league is "in the process of studying the law and its implications," which NFL VP of communications Brian McCarthy later reiterated in an email to PRWeek.

According to tourism site Visit Indy, the NFL scouting combine – held annually in Indianapolis ahead of the draft – accounted for roughly $8.27 million this year.

An earlier report from Indystar.com said that during a closed event, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill meant to emulate one President Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s.

"Although the bill does not mention sexual orientation, opponents fear it could allow business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons," Indystar.com reported.

The governor’s office is refuting that claim.

"As Governor Pence clearly stated [Thursday], this bill is not about discrimination and does not in any way legalize discrimination in Indiana," wrote Pence’s press secretary, Kara Brooks, in an email to PRWeek. "For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and this law will not do so in Indiana either."

The Big Ten Conference, which will reportedly look into the bill’s potential repercussions at an upcoming meeting, said in an emailed statement that it values "promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination."

Opponents of the bill started a petition Friday on Change.org to get the Big Ten title game booted from Indiana, according to Yahoo.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, released a statement just hours after Pence reportedly signed the bill, saying it is "especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees."

"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," the statement read. "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

NCAA officials did not have further comment on Friday.

Meanwhile, business leaders in opposition of the bill did their part to keep #BoycottIndiana trending on Twitter, where it remained a hot topic until after 3 pm EST Friday.

Jeremy Stoppelman, cofounder and CEO of Yelp, posted an article entitled An Open Letter to States Considering Imposing Discrimination Laws on the site’s blog Thursday. In the piece, he stated that "it is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large."

Stoppelman retweeted several posts against the bill made by Apple CEO Tim Cook on Twitter Friday.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff started tweeting about the bill on Thursday and continued through Friday afternoon, announcing his company’s plans to cancel "all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination." Benioff also retweeted Cook’s posts and Stoppelman’s blog.

Celebrities, such as actors Ashton Kutcher and George Takei, also weighed in on the issue.

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