Activists protest as NCAA agrees to consider North Carolina for championship events

AP and WiG reports

The NCAA has “reluctantly” agreed to consider North Carolina as a host for championship events again after the state rolled back a law that limited protections for LGBT people.

The governing body said its Board of Governors reviewed moves to repeal the anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” and replace it with a compromise law . The NCAA offered a lukewarm endorsement, saying the new law “meets the minimal NCAA requirements.”

The organization had been a key opponent of the original law. Its events carry major economic power: The North Carolina Sports Association had estimated more than $250 million in potential losses from 130 event bids submitted to the NCAA.

The NCAA statement said a majority of the board “reluctantly voted” to allow for consideration of bids from North Carolina during current deliberations for sites running through 2022. Events for the 2017-18 season that have already been awarded to the state – such as opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games in Charlotte — will remain in place.

“We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the statement said. “If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”

The NCAA pulled seven events from the state in September for the 2016-17 season, including men’s basketball tournament games from Greensboro in March. Those games were moved to Greenville, South Carolina, which had been banned from hosting events for years before that was lifted following the removal of a Confederate flag from state capitol grounds in 2015.

The NCAA’s North Carolina ban didn’t affect teams that earn home-court advantage during the season, such as the Duke women’s team hosting NCAA tournament games in March.

The NBA will discuss whether to bring the 2019 All-Star Game to Charlotte at its Board of Governors meeting this week, according to a person with knowledge of the plans. The league moved this year’s game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of the law.

That person told The Associated Press that the NBA board was already planning to discuss the matter at its meeting Thursday, though it’s not known if a decision will be made. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the board’s agenda is not publicized.

The Atlantic Coast Conference also pulled 10 neutral-site events from the state, including moving the football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando, Florida. The conference said after the compromise was reached its upcoming events would remain in place and the football title game would return to Charlotte.

The NCAA had made clear that more events already awarded to the state could be relocated, while also saying it would remove North Carolina bids from consideration as it prepared to announce its next wave of site announcements.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a compromise bill last week to repeal elements of the law after passage by the state legislature earlier in the day even while saying it wasn’t a perfect solution. That came days after the NCAA said the state was down to its final days to get something done.

Cooper, who signed the replacement bill, said it was clear that the NCAA had wanted a complete repeal of House Bill 2, as did he. But Cooper has said the new law was the best compromise he could get given the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities in the Legislature.

The replacement bill eliminated a requirement that transgender people use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. The new law says only state legislators — not local governments or school officials — can make rules for public restrooms.

The original bill also invalidated any local ordinances protecting gay or transgender people from discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations. The compromise prohibits local governments from enacting any new such protections until December 2020.

The compromise prohibits local governments from enacting any new such protections until December 2020.

“We are glad that the NCAA is going to come back to North Carolina and join us in fighting for more protections and for more ways to keep people from being discriminated against,” Cooper told reporters.

Asked about the NCAA’s tepid statement, Cooper said NCAA leaders still “recognized the progress in this legislation and they recognized that even though it wasn’t everything they wanted, that it was enough for them to come back and to join us in the fight to help to continue to improve our laws so people can be protected from discrimination.”

The NCAA move drew immediate criticism from LGBT rights groups Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, with HRC president Chad Griffin saying the NCAA “simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.”

“It is disappointing to see the NCAA backpedal after it stood strong against the deeply discriminatory HB2,” Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro said in a statement. “HB142 continues the same discriminatory scheme put forward by HB2 and does little to protect the NCAA’s players, employees, and fans. The NCAA’s decision has put a seal of approval on state-sanctioned discrimination.”

The North Carolina Values Coalition, a socially conservative group that pushed to preserve HB2, said it was pleased with the NCAA’s move but accused the sports organization of “bullying” the state into repealing HB2.

“The NCAA’s boycott of North Carolina achieved what it wanted – the repeal of HB2 – proving that bullying works as long as you meet the demands of the bully,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the coalition. “However, the NCAA had no business demanding anything of North Carolina lawmakers.”

Here’s the statement from HRC and Equality NC…

Today, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released the following statements in light of the NCAA decision to consider North Carolina for championship games, despite the discrimination against LGBTQ people that remains enshrined in state law.

“It is disappointing to see the NCAA backpedal after it stood strong against the deeply discriminatory HB2,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “HB142 continues the same discriminatory scheme put forward by HB2 and does little to protect the NCAA’s players, employees, and fans. The NCAA’s decision has put a seal of approval on state-sanctioned discrimination.”

“The NCAA’s decision to backtrack on their vow to protect LGBTQ players, employees and fans is deeply disappointing and puts people at risk,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook.

Last Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Roy Cooper passed an egregious bill — HB142 — that keeps some of the most discriminatory provisions of HB2 alive. Under this new “HB2.0,” which replaces one discriminatory, anti-transgender bathroom bill with another, the North Carolina General Assembly reserves total control over bathroom access throughout the state to itself; that means no city, state agency, public university or school board can ever adopt a policy that ensures transgender people have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Further, no city can even consider passing any protections for LGBTQ people until 2020. At the end of this discriminatory “moratorium,” cities will still be prevented from ensuring transgender people are able to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. This action targeting LGBTQ individuals — particularly transgender people — is the very definition of discrimination and continues a shameful chapter for North Carolina.

Civil rights groups including HRC, the NAACP, Equality NC, and the National Center for Transgender Equality have been working to correct the record on the discriminatory measure, and the tide has turned in calling out this sham “deal” exactly for what it is. Top headlines include: The New York Times editorial board, “North Carolina’s Bait-and-Switch on Transgender Restroom Law;” Steven Petrow for The Washington Post, “You can’t compromise on civil rights. But North Carolina just did;” The Charlotte Observer editorial board, “HB2 repeal: Cooper turns back on LGBT community;” Slate, “The HB2 “Repeal” Bill Is an Unmitigated Disaster for LGBTQ Rights and North Carolina;” Mother Jones, “Don’t Be Fooled. The North Carolina “Compromise” Doesn’t Actually Protect Trans Rights;” ESPN, “NCAA, NBA and ACC say they’re pro-LGBT — now’s their chance to prove it;” The Nation, “The So-Called ‘Repeal’ of North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill Is a Terrible Deal for Civil Rights.” Further articles and statements from other major publications, as well as the business and entertainment community, can be found here.