NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Proposed “refund” bill opens Pandora’s Box

Many Hoosiers object to what they consider the unpatriotic kneeling protests that have spurred controversy in the NFL.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner” at games in 2016 to protest social injustice and police brutality. More NFL players followed his lead, and protests continued this season. But whether you object to them or not, the protests by professional athletes during the National Anthem are matters of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

That’s why a bill introduced in the Indiana Legislature that would allow fans offended by such protests to seek a refund from Indiana professional sports teams should be put on the shelf.

House Bill 1011, authored by state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, received a first reading on the House floor and was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 9. The bill is wrong-headed and unnecessary as such protests have already diminished under the onslaught of public outcry anyway.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said the proposed bill is likely to die in a committee during the current short session of the Indiana General Assembly.

We agree with the Republican speaker’s concerns that not only would the proposed law violate the Constitution, it would go against the rights of businesses, such as the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Typically, private businesses have their own rules about refunds. The state dictating that a business must issue a refund would be a glaring example of government overreach.

According to the bill, if a professional sports team in Indiana does not refund the price of a ticket to a person who purchased a ticket and attended a game and filed a complaint that they were offended by an athlete on the team not standing during the National Anthem, the team is liable for triple the damages and other costs.

What actually constitutes being “offended,” however, or how a person might prove they were offended is not explained in the bill, although Smith says he plans to offer an amendment to clarify that issue. The bill would set a horrendous precedent of encouraging citizens to seek compensation and pursue litigation any time they become offended by something. We think the bill was a bad idea from the get-go, and we recommend the committee lets it die.