Fresh from a most glorious swearing in ceremony, Tampa's benevolent overlord has asked the NCAA's president to consider bringing its 2016 women's basketball tournament back to the Amalie Arena next year.
Those of you who have recently driven around Channelside while lost downtown have probably noticed NCAA Women's Final Four banners hanging from the stadium, which means Tampa Bay has landed another biggish college sporting event. Go us.
That event takes place this weekend and early next week.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn wrote in a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert that the tournament shouldn't return to Tampa next year simply because Tampa is the awesomest mid-size city in the universe, but also, unlike Indiana — where the event is slated to be held in Indianapolis next year — businesses aren't allowed to discriminate based on their "religious" views.
"As one of the most diverse cities in the United States and home to some of the most influential and supportive business leaders, we have proven that we have the resources to produce an incredibly successful event for the NCAA," he writes (a PDF featuring the letter's full text is below).
In its current state, Indiana's Senate Bill 101 applies religious freedom protections to business owners, which some interpret as allowing businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Its passage and signature into law triggered a tidal wave of outrage among the nation's non-troglodytes. That led to a boycott of Indiana as well as some pretty hilarious digs at the new law, even in these parts.
Officials in Indiana have said they will amend the law to clarify that discriminating against gays and lesbians is still not cool.
Emmert has condemned the law as it stands. The men's NCAA Final Four tournament is taking place in Indiana this weekend; it would have been tough to move it to another city on such short notice.
Buckhorn said the city will be pretty well-equipped to handle it next year, given that it's being held now. He also notes that Tampa is already slated to host the event in 2019 as well.
He added that Tampa is a city with a rich history of embracing diversity. Last weekend, Tampa had its first official Pride fest in 14 years. Its hiatus had nothing to do city government. In fact, organizers said that with such a welcoming city, a Pride festival only made sense.
"So, we carry with us a belief that as a city we can dream together, work together, and embrace a common vision," Buckhorn wrote in his letter, words that seem ripped from his extremely inclusive inauguration speech. "We embrace everyone, and we work to eliminate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation that might stand in anyone's way. While we may not all walk the same path in life, we must all have the same opportunities and choices."
The Women's Final Four games take place April 5th. The four competing teams include Connecticut, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland. The winners of those two games play April 7th. More info here.