Government & Politics

Missouri ‘religious freedom’ bill prompts NCAA call for ‘fair treatment of all individuals’

Fans enjoyed the view of downtown Kansas City from the Sprint Center during the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament in this March 2015 file photo.
Fans enjoyed the view of downtown Kansas City from the Sprint Center during the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament in this March 2015 file photo. File photo

With Missouri lawmakers considering adding a “religious freedom” amendment to the state’s constitution, the NCAA is warning that cities that host its events are expected to be welcoming to all.

“Our commitment to the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has not changed and is at the core of our NCAA values,” the organization said Thursday evening in a statement to The Star. “It is our expectation that all people will be welcomed and treated with respect in cities that host our NCAA championships and events.”

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Opposition from the NCAA is significant. The organization has numerous major events scheduled in Kansas City in the years to come, including the men’s NCAA Midwest Regional basketball semifinals and final in March 2017. Additionally, Kansas City was awarded 14 NCAA championships through 2017, including Division I soccer and women’s volleyball.

When Indiana considered a more expansive version of the “religious freedom” amendment, the NCAA said it would consider pulling future events from the state, a move that could cost localities millions of dollars.

The bill in question would ask voters to amend the state’s constitution to allow certain businesses involved with weddings to refuse services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. It has passed the Senate and is in the Missouri House.

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