The NCAA is as cowardly as it is inept.
Asked Sunday for its reaction to the near total abortion ban passed this weekend in Indiana, where the NCAA is based, spokeswoman Michelle Hosick said, “We are declining comment.”
That’s right. An organization that last year had more than 240 women at its headquarters, comprising more than half its staff, is choosing to stay silent as their rights are ripped away from them. An organization whose sole purpose is to support and facilitate participation for college athletes, nearly half of which are female, is OK with those women being deemed less than full citizens. An organization that already struggles to do right by women is standing by as their health and well-being are put at risk.
An organization that is supposed to support women and help them achieve success, in college athletics and beyond, is giving its de facto approval as their futures are restricted by extremist Indiana legislators who see them as nothing more than incubators.
Spineless as this is, it’s also short-sighted by the NCAA. As the voters of Kansas reminded lawmakers who have rushed to strip women of their rights in the wake of Roe vs. Wade being overturned, the majority of Americans support abortion access. They believe complex medical and personal decisions should be left to a woman and her doctor.
As right-wing legislators get further and further out of step with the American public, there will be a price to pay.
“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific engineering and business talent from around the world,” pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, one of Indiana’s largest employers, said in a statement after the abortion ban passed.
It won’t be any different for the NCAA. Imagine trying to sell a young woman on working for the NCAA at its headquarters in Indianapolis. Or a man with teenage daughters. Or anyone who believes women, not state legislators, know what is best for them and their bodies.
Imagine trying to convince a sponsor that has publicly stated its support for abortion rights, or one whose target audience is women, to partner with the NCAA.
That the NCAA should be hostile to women shouldn't come as a surprise. The new chair of its Board of Governors is Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor, a conservative Baptist school. The presidents of Georgia, Georgetown and Minot State University are also on the board.
Even before the new board members assumed their duties last week, the NCAA had made it clear it had lost any spine it once had.
When Indiana passed legislation in March 2015 that allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, the NCAA joined other Indiana business leaders in condemnation of it. NCAA president Mark Emmert even suggested it could affect Indianapolis’ ability to host lucrative events like the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
When North Carolina passed its so-called “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people, the NCAA responded by saying it would no longer hold championships – including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments – there.
But as Texas and other states have passed laws that are increasingly hostile to women, the NCAA has barely said a peep.
Texas passed a bounty law last year that effectively curtailed abortion access in that state, yet the state will host both the men’s and women’s Final Fours next year. And the men’s Final Four again in 2025.
Mississippi, whose law banning abortions after 15 weeks led to the overturning of Roe in June, hosted a softball super regional the month before the Supreme Court issued its decision.
Aside from being the right thing to do, opposing Indiana’s abortion ban also would have been the easy thing to do. Lilly, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders had already issued strong statements criticizing it. All the NCAA had to do was join the chorus.
Instead, it is conspicuous by its silence.
In saying nothing about Indiana's abortion ban, the NCAA said everything about what a small and cowardly organization it is.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA stays silent as Indiana passes near-total abortion ban