“[After the tournament] we, the NCAA, we’ve got to sit down and say if this environment remains the way it is, what does that mean for us going forward? We hold lots and lots of events,” he told ESPN at the time. “We’re going to have our national convention here, our offices are here. We have to say, ‘What are we going to do if this law goes into effect in July? What’s our relationship with the state of Indiana going to be?’”
The NCAA, which moved from Kansas City to Indianapolis in 1999, has about 300 full-time employees.
“We’re very serious about our core values,” Emmert told ESPN, “and we want to make sure we can operate in an environment that is supportive of those values, so this is a very serious issue for us.”
The NBA, the WNBA, the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever spoke up in a joint statement but Emmert had immediate clout because of the high visibility — and the income from visitors — the men’s tournament brought to the city. Indianapolis was to be the site of the 2016 women’s Final Four basketball tournament, adding further pressure. And Indiana, which had hoped to host another Super Bowl in the next few years, knew full well that the NFL in 1990 moved a Super Bowl from Arizona, which had not passed a law making the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday. (In May, NFL owners passed over Indianapolis when they distributed Super Bowls through 2021.) When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act reached the desk of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in 2014, the NFL was prepared to move Super Bowl XLIX; Brewer vetoed that bill.
Emmert said at the time that he had spoken with Pence as well as with legislators and the mayor and expressed concerns about the short-term event, the Final Four, and the long-term, the NCAA’s workforce. “The law does clearly need to be addressed, whether it’s a repeal or whether its some language change that makes it self-evident that there’s not discriminatory practices that can be condoned under this model,” Emmert said. “It’s going to be a decision they have to make, but they need to deal with it.”
Pence signed a modified version of the bill into law on April 2. Emmert was satisfied with the modification and Pence said there had been a “misunderstanding.”
“Over the past week this law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation,” said Pence in a statement. “However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward.”