Indiana passed a law that, depending on which legal expert you ask, may allow individuals and business owners to discriminate against homosexuals and same-sex couples. This issue will be decided in court at some unfortunate point, but it's plenty fair to say, for now, that a law which so much as opens the door to state-approved discrimination is both retrograde and inhumane. Those of us who believe in equal rights are desperately seeking a way to put pressure on the state to repeal such a potentially egregious violation of basic freedoms. Unfortunately, many of those in the sports world are going about it the wrong way.
Some of my peers and colleagues are calling for major sporting events to back out of Indiana as a type of sanction. The intentions here are good, but the proposal is the complete opposite of what we should be demanding.
Rather than giving Indiana less sports, we should make Indiana host all of the sports.
By now, it has been well documented that hosting mega-sporting events is an economic disaster. Hosting the Olympics, Super Bowl, Final Four, or any other major sporting event is one of the most reliable ways for a government to waste money and resources. For example, Mina Kimes at ESPN reported that Glendale lost $2.2 million hosting the 2008 Super Bowl, and expected to lose money on last year's Big Game, too. Houston reportedly pledged $13.6 million to host the 2011 Final Four, and San Antonio spent $7.1 million.
While Super Bowls and Final Fours are almost always losing propositions, the Olympics is the mother of all fiduciary sinkholes. Professor Andrew Zimbalist at Smith College, one of the foremost scholars on the subject, has the grisly figures: in 1976, Montreal was left with $2.7 billion in debt that took 30 years to pay off. In 1992, the public debt incurred by Barcelona reached $6.1 billion. The 2000 Sydney games cost the city $2.2 billion. The 2004 Athens games incurred a crippling $14.4 billion in debt! As for the most recent Olympics, Sochi's budget of $12 billion—already the highest in Olympic history—pushed closer to $50 billion when all was said and done.
The path forward, then, is obvious: make Indiana host everything. Every single Final Four, Olympics, Super Bowl, and All-Star Game. Make them host the NFL Draft, too, because the NFL Draft sucks. Bleed those city coffers dry on white elephant sports projects until they're wiped clean for their heinous law. You want economic sanctions? This is the most efficient way imaginable short of forcing them to pay straight up.
Exactly how many sporting events will it take to make Indiana feel the pain? It's hard to say. Different events lose vastly different amounts of money. Some Super Bowls almost break even, whereas the Olympics, as noted above, can cripple cities financially. Indiana is doing fairly well, fiscally speaking, ranking third-best in the nation in per capita debt. So we should probably make them host a few more than ought to be necessary. Hosting the next five Super Bowls, All-Star Games in each major sport, the entire NCAA Tournament (men's and women's), and, of course, the 2024 Olympics (sorry, Boston) ought to do it.
Open wide for some sports, Indiana. You have it coming.