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The coaches of the four NCAA basketball teams set to play in the Final Four on Wednesday issued a statement declaring their support of the athletic organization’s opposition to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say opens the door to discrimination against gay people.
"We are aware of the recent actions in Indiana and have made a point to talk about this sensitive and important issue among ourselves and with our teams," the coaches of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Kentucky and Duke said. The Final Four games will be held in Indianapolis.
"Each of us strongly supports the positions of the NCAA and our respective institutions on this matter — that discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated," the coaches said. "As a part of America's higher education system, college basketball plays an important role in diversity, equality, fairness and inclusion, and will continue to do so in the future."
NCAA President Mark Emmert said on Monday that he is "deeply concerned" about the controversial law. The act signed last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, says that the state cannot "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless it is furthering a "compelling government interest" and acting in the least restrictive way possible.
Critics say a business could use it as a legal loophole to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. Stung by a firestorm of criticism Pence said was unjustified, the governor on Tuesday called for legislation to clarify that the law does not allow for discrimination.
"We'll fix this, and we'll move forward," Pence, a Republican, said. Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday approved a similar bill. On Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked lawmakers to rewrite the bill, after critics, including Arkansas-based mega-retailer Walmart, opposed the bill.