With November comes basketball season. Nearly six months of basketball that for me normally culminate with the NCAA Men's Final Four. I've been to 13 Final Fours since 1998 and look forward to the greatest event in sports, no matter where the event is hosted.
With the season rapidly approaching I began to research Houston, the host of the 2016 Final Four. Ironically, I did not attend the 2011 event hosted in the same city. Through the magic of Google, most of what I researched was not positive.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance came up over and over again: A law that made it alright to discriminate, pretty much against anyone. Of course the proponents have clearly made it about LGBT folks. They used a disgraceful smear campaign that painted transgender people as predators.
So here we go again. Last spring, the same conversation was had in Indiana. Would LGBT folks be discriminated against in Indianapolis during the Final Four? The outcry forced Indiana lawmakers to back down and change their "religious tolerance" law. The residents of Indianapolis were wonderful, as they mocked their own legislature and welcomed all.
This mess in Houston is different. This was voted on by the people of Houston, not a handful of foolish lawmakers. The majority of the voters in Houston -- a full 61% -- have said it's ok for me to be turned away at a restaurant because I am gay.
Here I have a problem.
Arguably, Houston is slated to host the two biggest singular events in U.S. sports over the next 15 months. These two events will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy and in turn support bigots who have said it's OK to discriminate.
The NCAA has been put in a wonderful situation. They now have a chance to prove that discrimination is not OK. Imagine the magnitude of moving the Final Four. It would send shockwaves through any discrimination campaign and impose the same fear these campaigns have imposed on LGBT folks across this country. They claim to be about education and equality and truly have a chance to show that.
Unfortunately, I doubt the NCAA will act. In fact, their initial statement today confirms they will not. Last spring I had the opportunity to discuss some LGBT issues with the leadership. I asked how a governing body could allow a member institution to force student-athletes to sign a contract with an anti-gay clause, forbidding them from having sex or even talking positively about same-sex marriage.
Their answer: "we like to allow our schools to have autonomy."
Essentially, they do not want any part of punishing schools who choose to discriminate against LGBT student-athletes.
The NCAA has become a joke far and wide. Their rulings and eligibility standards are a complete hypocrisy. Coaches can't buy their players a sandwich, but it's OK to make them promise they are not gay. The latter sounds way worse to me.
The ball is in the hands of organizations like the NCAA and the NFL. Will they send the message that discrimination is wrong? Will they tell their millions of fans they will not accept this type of bigotry? Time will tell, but I can assure you this, my money will be spent in another location supporting another economy.
No way in hell I'll be in Houston.